The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Women’s Soccer team is putting its heart into a special event that supports a former player whose young twin daughters both are recovering from heart transplant surgeries.
The former player, Christine (Barutha) Roehling ’06, of Milwaukee, a soccer goalkeeper at UW Oshkosh in the mid-2000s, and her husband, Dan Roehling, and their children, Max, 3, and twins Chloe and Kendall, 18 months, plan to attend the team’s Playing for a Cause game Saturday, Oct. 15 versus UW-Stout.
Game time is 2 p.m. at J. J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium in Oshkosh.
Christine Roehling’s homecoming to UW Oshkosh promises to be an emotionally-charged event for the current soccer team that includes its own set of twins, Rachel Elliott and Robyn Elliott, seniors from Sussex, Wis., who both are team captains.
“I feel this (Playing for a Cause event) hits closer to me and Rachel,” said Robyn Elliott, who added that the team is committed to hosting a great event for the Roehling family and letting people know about the Roehling’s cause, The Beat Goes On Foundation.
The Beat Goes On Foundation was created to bring awareness and support to pediatric organ donation and financial support to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee–specifically its Herma Heart Center.
The Roehling twins spent a great deal of time at Children’s Hospital and continue to see heart specialists since returning home following life-saving surgeries.
The Oct. 15 Playing for a Cause event includes a themed gift basket raffle (think movie night, kitchen supplies, grill master, etc.) and an invitation for fans to eat after the game at Legends Bar & Grill in Oshkosh, where 15 percent of food and drink proceeds between 5 and 9 p.m. will be donated to the Roehling’s Foundation. Women’s Soccer also plans to promote the cause by inviting students over football Homecoming Weekend to sign up as potential organ and/or blood donors.
One day in late February, the Roehling parents noticed unusual and concerning changes with their daughter Chloe.
Doctors determined she had suffered a stroke and they soon learned it was the result of a progressively fatal heart disease, restrictive cardiomyopathy. The disease is characterized by an abnormal filling phase of the heart ventricles, according to the American Heart Association. Chloe’s identical twin, Kendall, was diagnosed with the same rare heart muscle disease. Both would need a heart transplant to survive.
Fast-forward to May 12, when Chloe received a donor heart and a successful transplant. Kendall, whose heart disease was not as progressed as her sister’s, received a second chance in life on July 1 when she received her donor heart.
The girls each spent many days in the hospital. They both have been home since late July but continue to require constant monitoring and numerous medications. Organ rejection is always a concern.
“We created The Beat Goes On Foundation as kind of an homage to our daughters – to honor their journeys; to honor the donor families that allowed them to continue on their journey,” Christine Roehling said. “For the donor families, their children do live on with us.”
Soccer team member and one half of the Elliott twins, Rachel Elliott, said she and her sister have had a very close relationship their entire life.
“I can say one word of a story (I’m telling) and Robyn (her twin sister) will know what I’m going to say,” Rachel Elliott said. “I think those little girls – especially with all they’ve gone through –the situation will make them closer. In the end, they’ll have the connection in life like Robyn and I have.”
Erin Coppernoll, UW Oshkosh Women’s Soccer head coach, was Christine Roehling’s coach in Fall 2004 and 2005, during her junior and senior years.
She called Christine a “great person” who was a backbone of a “really solid team” those two years. The two kept in touch, even after Christine graduated and accepted a job that included travel around the U.S. and cities beyond.
Coppernoll, who has two young daughters herself, said she saw the news about the Roehling twins on her former player’s Facebook post.
“When Christine left here (UW Oshkosh) she probably never thought this was going to be her story down the road,” Coppernoll said. “As a parent, when you see stories like this, you just can appreciate healthy kids. The second part of this is pediatric organ donation –being an organ donor. Unfortunately, something bad had to happen for the (Roehling) kids to get those hearts.”
Coppernoll said she’s told the members of her team that the adversity they experience as an athlete “is nothing” compared to the adversity they will experience at times as an adult and as a parent. But she also stressed that experiencing adversity as an athlete can help them face adversity as an adult.
“Life is precious . . .” the coach said, noting that no one knows the “cards they will be dealt.”
The UW Oshkosh Women’s Soccer Team has been “Playing for a Cause” in its Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference since 2012. They also played for a cause in the two years prior to it being part of conference directives. Over the years, they have supported autism awareness, suicide awareness, a number of cancer-related causes and now, the Roehling’s foundation.
UWO “family” supports Roehlings
“I was really humbled and shocked and honored and kind of taken aback that the (soccer) program in itself would choose us to sponsor and play for,” Christine Roehling said. “The amount of charity and outpouring that the team has shown, that the community has shown in general, is just mind-blowing.”
Christine Roehling said UW Oshkosh Women’s Soccer became her family while she was a student at the university. She said the friendships and camaraderie she built with teammates have lasted—even though she is 10 years beyond graduation.
She called the energy the team is showing for the foundation and her children “really exciting.” She said it means a lot to the family and helps her realize that no matter how far post-graduate a person is, they remain a part of the UW Oshkosh family.
The Roehlings know the importance of supporting families that are going through the transplant process and any congenital heart disease and trying to make life just a little easier.
“Doctors and nurses that have worked with us (have) become our family,” Christine Roehling said. “The families that go through the cardiac intensive care unit are ones that we repeatedly see—whether it is on the unit or at checkup appointments or even on Facebook or other events. It is a community and we want to make sure that we are supporting them and giving back as much as possible.”