By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
Marc Streem is still pulled to the soccer field.
The veteran coach retired in December from a medical career and instead of filling his schedule with more vacations, he filled it with more soccer games when he accepted a position as an assistant coach for the Rootstown girls soccer program and head coach Jason Opritza.
The game, and more importantly the kids, still bring him joy.
Emotionally, they still rekindle memories of his son Ryan, who was tragically killed in a car accident on Aug. 13, 2001, just weeks before the start of his freshman year of high school.
“When you lose a child, I believe you are the keeper of that child’s memories,” Streem said. “It is our job to do that. We love to remember Ryan, and we love to honor him and give back in his name.”
Marc, and his wife Barb, have done that through an annual alumni soccer game that is the only fundraiser for scholarships that are awarded to graduating Rootstown High School seniors each year.
This year’s alumni game fundraiser is scheduled for Saturday at Rootstown High School, with a kids game set for 5 p.m. and the alumni game starts at 6 p.m.
“It is hard for us, but it is a special thing,” Streem said. “People that Ryan never met, he is making their lives better through the scholarships. That is his legacy. It keeps his memory alive and it gives us a sense of fulfillment.”
In total, the family has donated more than $50,000 in scholarships since 2002 and the scholarship received the largest number of applicants in 2023.
“We focus a lot of the scholarship theme on enrichment,” said Streem, who initially retired from coaching 2016 after 16 years, 159 wins and five league championships. He coached the first four years of the Rootstown boys program (1994-97), then the Crestwood boys (2002-06) and the Crestwood girls (2009-15).
“After Ryan died, we realized just how much joy he brought to people. Joy we knew about and a lot we didn’t. I tell the story that kids really live two different lives. The one you know about, the one you are around every day and you are always there for. Then, there is a totally different life they live. The one you are not around, when they are at school or with their friends. After Ryan died, we learned about his other life through an outpouring of stories and those stories became the theme behind his scholarship.
“We heard about how he would invite the new student at school to sit at his lunch table to try to make him feel more comfortable. We heard about how he would call a friend up on the phone and play a song for them to try to cheer them up. We heard about how he would go sit by someone at school or on the bus so they didn’t have to sit by themselves and feel lonely.”
In many ways, the enrichment theme is something that Streem said he felt when the community rallied around them in a time when they needed it the most.
“The community and our closest friends and family basically came and saved us,” Streem said. “They kept us moving forward when we didn’t think we could. We felt like we were trapped in quicksand, and didn’t know how to function. We didn’t know how to do anything. Sadly, we have seen it happen to others, too.”
Last year’s alumni game honored Michael Boland, who died unexpectedly in his sleep on Aug. 13, 2021. Boland and Streem were longtime childhood best friends and would have been in the same graduating class of 2005.
“Watching those two growing up brings a smile to my face,” Streem said. “They were good friends and they played all kinds of different sports together. There was a point that Ryan left Rootstown to play at Emerald, and he loved it because it was an opportunity to meet new kids and play all over the place. The summer of his accident, he had come back and played a summer league with Rootstown and (head coach) Charlie (Voth) and Ryan re-connected with all of his friends. And it includes one of my fondest memories of him as a player.
“There was a play when Ryan received the ball and took it near the sideline and Ryan saw Michael (Boland) making a run up the field that nobody else saw. Only the two of them saw it. When Ryan played the ball into space, I remember someone saying, ‘Where in the hell is he passing the ball?’ Then Michael came racing in ahead of everyone, took the ball and in two strides shot the ball in for the goal. I thought to myself, ‘That is where he is passing the ball’.”
Streem said that soccer and playing the guitar were the two things that lit up his son Ryan’s face the fastest.
“When your children find the things that bring them joy, as a parent, you find joy, too. I miss that, but the alumni game keeps the memories of Ryan close to us and that is something that is really important to us.”
Thank you Tom for helping remember Ryan and always supporting the Rootstown Alumni Game