Shane Kelly loved good soccer. Even beyond that, he was consumed by the sport’s ability to bring people together.
Coming up on the two-year anniversary of Kelly’s untimely death, Chris Jones has made it his mission to make sure his good friend’s name lives on through the two passions he loved so much.
On Sept. 14 at Northeast High School, Jones, the Public League soccer chairman and dean of students at Samuel Fels High School, unveiled the first Shane Kelly Memorial Soccer Showcase. It was a day full of competitive soccer and people who loved the game, from the spectators in the stands to the players and coaches on the field involved in the quadruple-header. According to Jones, it was exactly how Kelly, who was tragically shot to death during a botched robbery in Fishtown while walking with his girlfriend in November 2011, would have wanted it.
“He had a real big passion for the game of soccer, and a bigger heart for bringing people together through the sport,” said Jones, who added he and Kelly began playing soccer together around the age of 8. “When I got the soccer chair position last year, one of the first things I made known was that I wanted to honor his memory, and what better way than bringing his two passions of great friends and soccer all on the same day?”
The memorial showcase featured four games, which kicked off with Central playing Frankford, where Kelly starred as a Public League MVP from 1999-2002 under former Pioneers soccer coach Bill Snyder, who was on hand and addressed the teams as well as Kelly’s family before the game.
“Shane was a gifted kid, not only on the soccer field where he was such a good player, but also that he could always bring out the best in others,” said Snyder, who presented Kelly’s family with a portrait of Shane in his Frankford uniform and other saved memorabilia before the game. “He led by example. Off the field, he was an honest person and a good student. What a tragedy that a fine young man pursued his education, had a good job in a hospital and lived life to the fullest, only to be wasted like that.”
Central prevailed over Frankford, 7-0, in the showcase’s first game. Later on, Judge topped McDevitt, 6-0, Washington upended Franklin Towne Charter, 2-1, and Holy Ghost nipped La Salle, 2-1, in the day’s finale. Some coaches, including Judge’s John Dunlop and La Salle’s Bob Peffle, altered their team’s schedules so that they could play at Northeast on a day to honor Kelly, who was the epitome of all that was good about high school soccer.
After Kelly graduated from Frankford, he stayed involved with the sport, helping establish men’s league teams and sometimes refereed Public League games with his father, Brian, who spoke fondly of his son as well as friends like Jones who are trying to keep Shane’s memory alive.
“Shane was into helping people and anything to keep his friends together through sports,” Brian Kelly said. “Whether it was soccer, softball, bowling, whatever … anything to get people together to have fun. He loved all sports, but soccer was his first love from about the time he was 4 years old.
“I thought there was a really good turnout in the first year, especially considering they didn’t have a whole lot of time to put it together. Knowing what he was all about, it was just great to see.”
At the Kelly family’s insistence, all proceeds from the day will be used to fund four partial scholarships at the end of the year, one each for a male and female soccer player in the Catholic and Public leagues. Interested players will write a one-page essay at the end of the season describing how playing high school soccer has helped them build qualities such as teamwork, personal character and camaraderie. Then, Jones and the Kelly family will review the submissions and ultimately cut a check to the winners’ colleges for next year. Anything raised by the Shane Kelly Memorial Fund will be given directly back to local student-athletes, something Kelly himself would have wanted, according to Jones and the family.
“My goal is to promote soccer across the city to get more kids involved,” Jones said. “We have the athletes; we just need to get them out on the field. We definitely want to keep this going. We had good support and sponsorship in getting it off the ground, and we want to get bigger and better to build and promote high level soccer competition. Our hope is that it keeps growing from the start of today.”
Whatever the case, Brian Kelly’s heart was warmed by the gesture, and he was honored to see his son’s name live on through the things that defined him most.
“It was great to see some good soccer keeping all those kids together out there,” Kelly said. “It definitely did for Shane. He just kept going with it, with the same bunch of friends, and they made even more friends through the sport. He was that type of kid in that everyone gravitated toward him, so it was really good that Chris did this. I’m glad this weekend was a success, because that’s what my son was all about, good soccer and helping people.” ••
To make a donation to the Shane Kelly Memorial Fund, or to find out how to get involved in planning next year’s showcase, contact Chris Jones at 215-758-1969 or firstname.lastname@example.org.