Wednesday, 13 September 2017 07:08

Carosa’s awesome legacy lives on

Written by  Justin Parker

“Today I shall behave as if this is the day I will be remembered.”

Those are the words of the great Dr. Seuss and they can inspire all of us to some degree. Yet, they easily could have be written with Kevin Carosa specifically in mind.

In my 36 years, I have met few people who can rival Kevin’s passion for living a full life and making memories each day. And you know what? Because of that, he is fondly remembered by so many.

You have seen Carosa’s name in these pages before. He’s the inspiration behind the Live Awesome Foundation for cancer research and its signature event, the Live Awesome Flag Football Tournament, which will be held for the eighth time on Saturday, Sept. 23 in Huntersville.

But it’s been awhile since we shared the background of Carosa, who passed away at age 21 on Aug. 31, 2009.

I met Kevin a dozen years ago when he was a fun-loving, popular high school kid, who loved the combination of sports and acting crazy in what was then a crowded and clever North Meck High student section. After one game, Kevin approached me and asked if I’d be interested in doing a story on his backyard football league. Eventually, I made my way to his home — league headquarters — admittedly with somewhat low expectations for what I’d find. What I thought might make a decent photograph or two in one edition of a newspaper actually became the inspiration behind the current fundraising tournament and foundation, which is based on the Live Awesome mantra Carosa coined during his battle with cancer.

The league was called Friday Football at Fat Kid’s — Kevin, in his own self-deprecating way, gave himself the nickname Fat Kid — and I found it was the backyard league of everyone’s dreams. It was incredible. The teams entered the field, Carosa’s sloping backyard, to their own entry music and fireworks. There were stats and standings online, back when that was not yet common. Carosa even had a camera set up on the goalline for instant replays. I think everyone secretly hoped there’d be a need to go to the camera to review a potential touchdown. I know I did.

I was amazed by what I saw that chilly afternoon, including the number of “fans” who showed up, with cars clogging the cul-de-sac. I’m still convinced that only someone with the charisma and connections of Carosa — and his mom, Becky, who saw more value in kids having fun than in having grass in her backyard — could have pulled the whole thing off.

The league took off after the fall high school season concluded, and many college-bound Vikings played, including Robert Irvin, who would go on to start at quarterback at Penn, and his younger brother Tommy, who became a star safety at Wofford before going to training camp with the Arizona Cardinals. The whole production was ... awesome.

“It’s the best word to describe it all,” says Ben Benshoof, who later anchored Wingate’s offensive line. “It was such a big deal to play in it that we risked our scholarships to play.”

Benshoof became friends with Carosa during middle school, and they played pickup football while waiting for the school bus. Benshoof now works in his hometown as Huntersville Parks and Recreation’s recreation facility manager, and he serves as the chief organizer for the Live Awesome flag football event, in partnership with the Citizen and Novant Health. The tournament has raised about $30,000 in seven years, split between Novant’s cancer center and germ cell cancer research at Indiana University, where Carosa was treated.

The inspiration behind the tournament and foundation remains clear. Because of how he lived, Carosa’s awesome legacy endures.

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