NEWS | October 10, 2018

UC Davis pediatric cancer patient has wish granted to be a Sacramento Republic FC player


Wishes do come true. If in doubt, ask pediatric cancer patient Matthew Harding.

Photo of Matthew Harding with health care team
Matthew Harding with his UC Davis health care team at the player signing.

The 15-year-old boy from Elverta received the surprise of a lifetime today when he became the youngest soccer player in Sacramento Republic FC history to be signed to a contract, as part of his Make-a-Wish wish.

Harding was born at UC Davis Children’s Hospital in 2002 and has been a UC Davis patient throughout his childhood. In April of 2016, Harding began to experience discomfort behind his eyes and his field of vision was beginning to shift inwards. After a visit to the emergency room, he was diagnosed with Langerhans-cell histiocytosis, a rare form of cancer that causes tumors to form. He was admitted to the UC Davis Children’s Surgery Center to have a mass removed from behind his eye and then endured a year of chemotherapy. He has since completed treatment and has received the all-clear from his doctor to play soccer again, his favorite sport. 

Harding returned to the hospital this afternoon, where he received the surprising news that his Make-a-Wish request to become a Sacramento Republic FC player had been granted. Surrounded by Sacramento Republic FC players, staff and his UC Davis health care team, Harding signed a player contract, received a jersey with his name and favorite number on it, and was part of a press conference with Ben Gumpert, Sacramento Republic FC president and chief operating officer, and Todd Dunivant, Sacramento Republic FC general manager. Harding has been invited to practice with the team on Thursday and join them on the field at Saturday’s match against Las Vegas Lights FC.

Photo of Matthew Harding's surprise moment
Watch the moment when Matthew Harding finds out his wish is granted.

UC Davis pediatric oncologist Jo Chung described Harding as the strong, silent type and said that one of the few things that he would always talk about during their appointments would be soccer. Soccer always excited him, she said.

“I’m so happy for him that he can have this experience,” said Chung.

Harding said he had no idea that his wish would be fulfilled, but was very happy that it was.

“It’s an amazing day at UC Davis Children’s Hospital to make children’s wishes come true,” said Judie Boehmer, executive director of patient care services at UC Davis Children’s Hospital.

Related Links

Matthew's first practice day with Sacramento Republic FC - Good Day Sacramento

15-year-old cancer patient signed as youngest Sacramento Republic FC player - KCRA

Republic FC signs 15-year-old Harding through Make-a-Wish - USL Soccer

Harding claims fans’ choice Goal of the Week

Make-A-Wish, Sacramento Republic FC help teen fulfill his dream

Sacramento Republic FC grants cancer patients Make-A-Wish request

Watch a 15-year-old score a goal for Sacramento Republic FC

UC Davis Children's Hospital is the Sacramento region's only nationally ranked, comprehensive hospital providing care for infants, children, adolescents and young adults with primary, subspecialty and critical care. It includes the Central Valley's only pediatric emergency department and level I pediatric trauma center, which offers the highest level of care for its critically ill patients, as well as a level I children's surgery center. The 129-bed children's hospital includes the state-of-the-art 49-bed neonatal and 24-bed pediatric intensive care and pediatric cardiac intensive care units. For more information, visit