Of the 216 teams competing in the youth soccer regionals in Saginaw this week, is a team from Grand Rapids missing its captain, and a soccer club missing a friend.
Thirteen-year-old Christian Ouding lost his life about a week and a half ago when he went under the water off the beach in Grand Haven. His friends and family were unable to rescue him; he later died at a local hospital.
Now, the entire soccer club, both boys and girls, and teams of all ages, are honoring Ouding the best way they know how.
They made shirts that read "CKO" with the number 21.
Ouding was a center midfielder and captain of the Grand Rapids Crew Under-14 team, but he planned to play "up" with the 15-year-olds in the regional tournament in Saginaw Township this week.
The coach of the U-14 team said his squad immediately came together with the idea to make the shirts and play this tournament for Christian.
"We found out at 7 a.m. on the day of try-outs," Marc Frankland, coach of the U-14 squad, said. "We'd been with him all night in the hospital when he was fighting for his life, then we found out at 7 a.m. that he had passed away. My team came together and said there's nothing more we want to do than tribute him and come out and play. Christian will always be with us."
"He was like a brother to all of us, someone we want to be when we grow up," Peter Brown, a player on the U-15 squad, said. "So we are wearing these shirts to honor him and try to have his spirit with us during this tournament."