In 2008, the 501c3 nonprofit Women’s Charities, Inc [WCI] was created. “Old and new-found friends reached out to me in my time of need. They got involved in my life and supported my family when my son Leo was having 1/2 of his brain removed due to epilepsy. Their amazing support inspired me to found the Women’s Soccer Club in 2000 and included the WCI eight years later as I continued to find strength through numbers.” It is the basis for the WCI’s supportive soccer club community of women called the GetInvolved Program.
The history of the Women’s Soccer Club [WSC] and its founder Ginny McCullough is an inspiration for all. It begins with the Women’s Soccer Club which informally started in November 1999 by Ginny and the help of her friends Nancy Angelini and Pat Yarmulnik. The story of Ginny’s life leading up to the creation of the WSC is amazing. Ginny grew up in a family of seventeen children. Upon graduating from Marquette University in 1986 with a BSN, RN , Ginny settled in the Milwaukee area with her husband Tom (an MU grad BA in ’83 and ’85 MS). They welcomed the first of their six children shortly thereafter.
Unfortunately, Leo had a stroke at birth. Years of physical, occupational and speech therapy ensued. Leo was diagnosed with having epilepsy when he was in the first grade. With the advent of years of different medications (which had horrible side-effects) that failed to control the seizures, the seizures continued to get worse. He had many different seizure types that were putting his life in jeopardy daily. It was a terrible nightmare that had no end in sight. When Leo was 12 years old, it became apparent that the only cure for him was a challenging and dangerous series of brain surgeries that would excise significant tissue from his brain. Ultimately, the right half of Leo’s brain was removed. The decision made by the McCullough’s was filled with extreme fear and anxiety as the surgery could leave Leo paralyzed on his left side with no guarantee that the seizures would be gone forever. Many who have epilepsy are not candidates for surgery. Leo was lucky but was presented with a double edged sword. There would be a high price to pay.
As the anxiety grew from the impending fourth and final surgery, Ginny needed some type of stress relief. Her husband Tom (played soccer all his life) suggested that she play soccer so she could kick something. Ginny soon found out that the opportunities for women were limited, especially if they had little or no experience. Ginny had never played soccer in her life and was 37 years old. It was then that with the help of a couple of friends that the WSC was formed.
Since then, the club has grown exponentially since its small beginnings of 19 friends – members who got involved to help Ginny out. It made a HUGE difference in her ability to cope with her stress. It became not only her stress release, her treadmill, her support system, her therapy sessions out on the field but also she met MANY wonderful new friends, became more confident and more physically fit. Leo has made great strides as well. He has permanently lost the peripheral vision on his left side and the movement in his left hand is limited. His extreme loss of short-term memory is always improving. Leo is a courageous, kind and bright 18 year old currently a senior at Nicolet High School. He has had to relearn much that we take for granted.
by Karen Cullen, Past WSC Director of Player Personnel 2004