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Former professional soccer player Simon Keith, who grew up in Victoria is currently in a San Diego hospital in dire need of a heart and kidney transplant.
He made headlines around the world during the 1980s as the first professional athlete to successfully return to the sport after a heart transplant.
The University of Victoria alum is the CEO of the Simon Keith Foundation, an organization that was created by Keith to raise awareness of organ donorship and educating transplant recipients.
Inducted into The Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame on Oct. 29, 2016 at the Westin Bear Mountain Resort in Victoria, British Columbia.
Born in Lewes, England in 1965, Keith moved to Victoria in 1967. He began playing soccer at age 4 for the Victoria Boys Club, later moving to the Lansdowne Evening Optimist Patriots, a team that won multiple Vancouver Island Championships and appeared in the Provincial Finals on two occasions.
Keith’s accomplishments in soccer were abundant. He was a city all-star, represented Vancouver Island and the Province of British Columbia at the U-16, U-18 and Senior men’s categories, as well as being included in the Canadian National Team program as a U-19 and senior team. Keith attended Mount Douglas High School, playing two seasons for the Rams highlighted by a third-place finish during his 11th grade season and his selection to the first All-Star Team. Upon graduation, Simon played for Millwall in the English Third Division before returning to Canada to play for the University of Victoria Vikes and joining the Canadian National Team program.
Keith’s personal story is also one of inspiration and perseverance. In a life-changing event in 1984, Keith was diagnosed with myocarditis, a deterioration of the heart muscle. Two years later, at the age of 21, he was the recipient of a heart transplant.
He then moved to Las Vegas in 1987 determined to return to the field of play. Keith amazingly returned to competitive soccer playing for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, under head coach Barry Barto. He also had a chance to play along side his older brother, Adam.
After playing two seasons with the Rebels, Keith garnered many honors including being named the Student-Athlete of Year for the Conference as well as voted as USA’s Most Courageous Athlete. After his senior season, Keith was named the Most Valuable Player at the Senior Bowl and was drafted first overall into the Major Indoor Soccer League, just three years after his heart transplant.
Today, Keith has turned his attention to helping others, becoming one of the most notable and influential proponents of organ donation. In 2011, he founded The Simon Keith Foundation, an organization which raises funds to benefit children who have undergone a life-saving organ transplant who desire a return to an active and healthy lifestyle and increase organ donor awareness.
Keith also serves as the Chief Operating Officer for the Nevada Donor Network, the federally designated organ procurement organization serving Nevada. Under his direction, NDN has become a model for organ donation and education, recovering more organs per capita than anywhere in the United States.
Now one of the longest living transplant recipients in the world, Keith released his autobiography – Heart for the Game – and also established The Simon Keith Foundation in 2011. His incredible story was recently chronicled in an ESPN E:60 profile, titled Change of Heart.
Keith has appeared at the White House in 2016 at the inaugural Organ Donation Summit and was named Canada’s 2015 National Humanitarian of the Year by the David Foster Foundation. He is also a 2013 inductee into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame.
Additional information about his inspirational story can be found at www.thesimonkeithfoundation.com. For more details on The Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame, please visit www.gvshof.ca.
The Simon Keith Foundation is dedicated to providing financial support primarily to youths who have undergone a life-saving organ transplant who desire a return to an active and healthy lifestyle.
In addition to helping people with their non-medical expenses, the Foundation strives to increase organ donor registration through public awareness campaigns. For additional information please go to www.thesimonkeithfoundation.com.
Heart for the Game is available on Amazon, I-Tunes and through the Simon Keith Foundation website at www.thesimonkeithfoundation.com.