Tustin and Irvine police take on Beckman High in annual memorial soccer game

By Lou Ponsi

Kelsey Harris was only 18 when a rare neurodegenerative disorder known as Lafora Disease took her life on April 17, 2014.

By playing soccer, the game Kelsey loved, members of the Tustin Police Department help keep her memory alive and help prevent the disease from taking other young lives.

Tustin and Irvine police officers play Beckman High School students during the Kelsey Harris Memorial Cup soccer game at Beckman High School.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

A handful of Tustin and Irvine police officers competed against members of the Beckman High School soccer team in the fifth annual Kelsey Harris Memorial Cup on May 11.

Kelsey, who died during her senior year, played soccer at Beckman High School and was a club player for most of her life.

Tustin and Irvine police officers and Beckman High School students during the Kelsey Harris Memorial Cup.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin PD’s involvement in the annual event came about in a serendipitous way.

Officer Chuck Mitchell had the idea of police officers playing soccer against high school students as a way to strengthen the relationship between police and the community. At the same time, the Beckman High School soccer program was looking for a way to memorialize Kelsey.

Tustin and Irvine police officers are pitted against Beckman High students during the Kelsey Harris Memorial Cup soccer game.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“We got together with her coach and thought it would be a great idea to do a benefit game,” Mitchell said. “The first year was a great success and it’s continued every year since.”

Throughout the year, Tustin PD employees raised money through sales of t-shirts and bracelets and donated the proceeds to the Harris family following the game.

The funds go toward research and awareness of Lafora Disease, which is unknown to most people.

Frank Harris, father of Kelsey Harris who passed away from Lafora Disease, thanks everyone for coming to the Kelsey Harris Memorial Cup Soccer game.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“I think it’s pretty cool that the cops can come out and do this,” said Erin Harris, Kelsey’s big sister and one of her four siblings. “They (the cops) were looking for something and we were looking for something. I know it’s a fundraiser, but it’s more of getting together and celebrating her.”

Players from Beckman High (purple) and Tustin and Irvine Police Departments (green) gather at the end of the game.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

While soccer was her passion, Kelsey was an avid sports fan in general, Harris said.

“She would wake up and go to baseball games that were just neighbor kids,” Harris said. “She just loved being around sports.”

At age 11, Kelsey began having seizures, but continued playing soccer until about age 15, Harris said, when the symptoms of the disease intensified.

Goalkeeper Mark Andersen blocks the ball from scoring.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“She couldn’t walk … She couldn’t talk the last sixth months,” she said.

Beckman special education teacher Misty Moon, who was close to Kelsey, also helps organize the annual soccer game.

Tustin Police Officer Charlie Ruleas (green) fights for control of the ball.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“We started it because we wanted to figure out a way to memorialize her and not just be sad when we thought about her but … get together and have a good time and do something that she loved,” Moon said.

Players from Beckman High (purple) and Tustin and Irvine Police Departments (green) gather for a team photo.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin Police Officer Michelle Jankowski runs with the ball.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin Police Officer Micheal Fitzpatrick, left, battles a Beckman High student during the Kelsey Harris Memorial Cup soccer game.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Goalkeeper Mark Andersen from the Irvine Police Department grabs the ball.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin Police Officer Chuck Mitchell takes the ball downfield.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin and Irvine police officers play Beckman High students during the Kelsey Harris Memorial Cup Soccer game at Beckman High.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The Kelsey Harris Memorial Cup soccer game was held at Beckman High School. 
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin Police Officer Micheal Fitzpatrick, right, moves to block the ball from a Beckman High student.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin and Irvine police and Beckman High students compete in the Kelsey Harris Memorial Cup soccer game.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin Police Officer Khashayar Moghadam collides with another player. Moghadam, who was injured in the play, is back at work. The other athlete was uninjured.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Paramedics from Orange County Fire Authority tend to Tustin Police Officer Khashayar Moghadam after he collided with another player. After a few stitches, Moghadam is back at work. The other player was uninjured.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Goalkeeper Mark Andersen from the Irvine Police Department grabs the ball.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin and Irvine police officers play Beckman High students during the Kelsey Harris Memorial Cup Soccer game at Beckman High School. 
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC