DAY 22 (Aug. 22): More Than A Game
Eddie Garcia met the Azusa Pacific football team in 2006, when the Cougars hosted a day of Special Olympics as part of the football program’s outreach into the community. That event marked the beginning of Garcia’s friendship with the Cougar football program, and over the course of that friendship Eddie has had a steady presence with the team, attending practices and games while keeping Azusa Pacific’s coaching staff updated on his Special Olympics performances and academic achievements.
Garcia is a gold medalist Special Olympics athlete, although he is most proud of his 27-0 record in surgeries he has had to undergo to treat the disease he was born with. In addition to his athletic accomplishments, Garcia has his bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly Pomona along with a master’s degree from UCLA. In addition, he was recently accepted into a doctorate program in psychiatric care at UCLA.
Prior to the 2011 season, Garcia presented Azusa Pacific head coach Victor Santa Cruz with a gold medal he had won at a Special Olympics competition, intending for the gift to serve as inspiration to a team that went 9-3 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NAIA playoffs.
“Eddie is symbolic of everything we’re trying to build in our program,” Santa Cruz said. “He’s always searching for a way to be a better competitor, and he will take a bus all the way from Westwood just to come see one of our practices. He does an amazing job cheering up our players, and he does more to inspire our program than anything we’ve ever done for him.”
When the Make-A-Wish foundation contacted him with the opportunity to fulfill any of his dreams, Eddie politely turned them away and told them to go make somebody else’s wish come true. He explained his response to Santa Cruz, who recalled him saying, “My wish has already come true, because I’ve gotten to be a part of the Cougar football team.”
The special relationship formed with Garcia is a product of the Cougar football program’s commitment to community outreach. That spirit of outreach is also evident with Azusa Pacific’s third consecutive year of participation in the Coach To Cure MD program this fall.
Coach To Cure MD is a partnership between the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), a professional organization for over 10,000 college football coaches and staff, and Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD), the largest national charity devoted exclusively to Duchenne muscular dystrophy. In 2008 the AFCA adopted PPMD’s Coach To Cure MD program as one of their charity efforts. One reason the AFCA was drawn to Coach To Cure MD was because of the unique parallels between Duchenne, a disorder which robs young men of precious muscle strength and college football, a game where young men are at the peak of their muscle strength.
On one football Saturday of each season (this year’s date is September 29, 2012, when Azusa Pacific hosts Western Oregon) AFCA coaches nationwide agree to promote Coach To Cure MD. By wearing armbands and discussing the program during media interviews, coaches help reach the goals of the program to raise national awareness for the disorder and help raise money to fund research for a cure.