On December 8th, 2012, Larissa passed away at the age of 13.
Her passing was a deep blow to a truly international soccer community even though she was only a teen. Now, we want to make sure that the spirit of Larissa Estrada lives wherever the game of soccer is played.
The opportunity for us to give Larissa and those around her a voice even after she is gone is something we cannot take for granted. We will always recall the grief that all people experience when loosing a loved one, but we also want to continue the good things that they have started that have impacted our lives.
Dale Lari is a celebration of Larissa’s life and legacy. More importantly, this project is a symbol of sorts. A reminder that if one gives, one will always have.
Since she took her first steps, Larissa was introduced to the beautiful game.
Originating from rural Eastern North Carolina, where soccer is still in its humble beginnings throughout the local community (but rapidly growing as it is happening all over the country), she made it her mission to compete at a higher level.
Her passion was undeniable and powered by the dream of one day playing in those big games representing her club, school, and hopefully her country.
This dream, that children and adults alike share, knows no language, race, or gender boundaries. This is why we see soccer jerseys being worn all over the world by people of all ages. During the journey, one learns the virtues of sports that push us to become better people in our regular lives.
3000 Mile Difference
Being from an immigrant family means being far away and growing up without grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all around you. Larissa was Nicaraguan-American and maintained a close relationship with her identity, culture, and family, in particular, her closest cousin in Managua, Nicaragua, who was only a year younger. The two shared the same dreams and love for the sport.
While Larissa’s soccer development was limited only by distance to the state capital. That is when she set her sights on joining what would be her only soccer club, CASL (Capital Area Soccer League), regardless if it was an hour-drive each way for every tryout, every practice, and every game.
Larissa knew to be appreciative of this opportunity even if it meant late nights, homework in the car, and missing out on important school events and friends because she knew what her cousin and his teammates had to go through worse.
Birth of Cachorros FC
They were unable to play because they did not have the resources or organized teams to do so, at any level. The only way to play on an organized team in Nicaragua was to attend the few expensive private schools available only to a small minority. Not many families in one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere have that luxury.
As any parent would, Larissa’s uncle decided to coach his own team that would break the constraints facing so many. Slowly but surely, their drive as a team and people’s compassion for their urge to just play led them to borrow open spaces for them to practice on from local schools in the area that would allow it, find opponents, and obtain equipment to make their own.
This was the birth of Cachorros FC.
Larissa + Cachorros FC
Larissa always supported and kept in touch to find out how the Cachorros were doing. They, like her, did not shy away from tough practices, hard games, and teammates that became as close as family.
After school, during the summer, during holidays, and even during commercial breaks of her favorite TV shows, Larissa would practice in order to tryout for the club that would take her in and embrace her as their own.
Not having the nearby resources, she gathered videos and training strategies from libraries, websites, youtube, and even television. The raw material that was to become her soccer education was shared with her cousin, uncle, and all of the Cachorros FC team members.
The drills, techniques, and skills that they learned were the ones that Larissa inspired here in North Carolina. As Larissa progressed, so did the team in Nicaragua. In reality, there was an unbreakable bond between Larissa and Cachorros FC through family, sport, and drive to overcome obstacles to do what they loved.
Larissa and the Cachorros’ lives were both ingrained in a sport that demonstrated that through hard work, focus, and the help of others they could break the constraints their environments confined them to.
After joining CASL, Larissa was the link that was able to get the very first donations of clothes, cleats, equipment, and funds to those she cared about in Nicaragua.
Together they showed those around them that children could not only positively affect those close-by but those thousands of miles away.
Just as she was beginning to do so much, and preparing herself for the life ahead of her, she suffered a gunshot wound and later died in UNC‘s Children’s Hospital.
Her Impact in Eastern North Carolina
As an eighth-grader, Larissa was very involved in her school, church, and local community. Her loss was felt deeply at her school, Hobbton Middle.
The death of a child always takes a toll, but in a small, close-knit community like the one in Newton Grove, North Carolina it is that much more impactful.
Those who knew her also knew that her favorite color was purple. In honor of her, sixth to eighth-grade students, faculty, friends, and family dressed in shades of purple expressed messages to her on posters, yellow ribbons, and balloons.
Out on the school’s soccer field, along with their tears and prayers, Hobbton Middle’s eighth-grade class released the balloons to say goodbye to Larissa.
Her Impact in the Triangle
As those in her hometown payed homage to Larissa’s spirit, so did her extended soccer family in Garner and Raleigh, North Carolina.
Former teammates, opponents, and others connected in one way or another to her soccer community showed their support by also coming together under the color purple.
Communities that were worlds apart in terms of distance, demographics, and environments were brought together by the memory of Larissa and what she stood for.
Teams across the country acknowledged her memory through dedicating games, tournaments, armbands, posters, and the simplest of things like the warm embrace of hugs to Larissa’s teammates.
Her Impact in Nicaragua
She not only grew up with her team in North Carolina, but also the Cachorros in Nicaragua.
Larissa’s uncle would motivate his team during practices by mentioning his niece’s soccer abilities and were well acquainted with who Larissa was, aside from the knowledge they had of her involvement in getting them the much needed clothes equipment they had to do without before.
As her family in Nicaragua was also dealt a heavy blow, the Cachorros FC showed solidarity and support by wearing t-shirts with Larissa’s picture to their games.
They joined those here in America in remembering Larissa.
3000 Mile Bus Ride
On June 12th, 2014 we will be launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to purchase a bus, take it from North Carolina on a bus tour all the way to Miami, and ship it to the Cachorros in Nicaragua.
Please contact Larissa’s brother, Edwin Estrada (email@example.com), to see how we can make this a reality.
We want to show the world how the soccer community came together to get a bus full of equipment to Nicaragua one stop and one mile at a time in a journey of a lifetime.