FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution midfielder Zak Boggs spends most mornings and weekends living out his childhood dream of being a professional soccer player.
In the afternoons, he does his part to help cure cancer.
Boggs, who shared the Revolution’s Humanitarian of the Year honors with veteran goalkeeper Matt Reis this season, received league-wide recognition for his work in Dr. Marsha Moses’ lab at Children’s Hospital Boston on Wednesday afternoon as the 24-year-old was named the MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarian of the Year. Boggs was honored ahead of fellow finalists Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo) and Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes).
“(It’s amazing) just to be included with a great group of guys from across the league and MLS W.O.R.K.S., which puts so much emphasis on giving back and helping others,” said Boggs. “I mean, that’s awesome.”
Daily training sessions at Gillette Stadium are typically finished by noon and most of the players have cleared out of the locker room by 1 p.m., leaving plenty of free time for the athletes. Some make appearances at charity events, some have coaching gigs and others head to the gym for supplementary workouts.
Boggs puts on a lab coat and heads to Children’s Hospital Boston, where he helps Moses and her staff research potential cancer diagnostics and prognostics. More specifically, he’s involved in the process of analyzing urine samples in an attempt to find proteins in the body which would more clearly identify someone who has cancer from someone who does not.
“It’s not the most glamorous thing, by far,” Boggs said with a chuckle. “We wanted to develop a test to determine the early stages of cancer. Basically, it’s diagnostic testing we’re trying to do.”
A 2009 graduate of the University of South Florida with a degree in biomedical sciences, Boggs was a Rhodes Scholar candidate and has received numerous awards for his academic achievements and charitable contributions, including the 2009 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award and the 2010 Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup Award.
During his time at USF, Boggs volunteered at the Moffitt Cancer Center and the Shriners Hospitals for Children, and he was eager to continue those endeavors upon his arrival in Foxborough in early 2010. After scanning the internet, Boggs discovered the Folkman Laboratory at Children’s Hospital Boston and set up a meeting with Dr. Moses to see if he could provide any assistance.
Moses ultimately jumped at the offer – despite some initial skepticism – and Boggs couldn’t be happier to play a role in the process.
“It puts things into perspective,” he said. “It’s pretty special that I get the opportunity to play here and do what I love to do, then I get to go and try to make a difference somewhere else.
“Part of my job is just aliquoting urine – moving it from one tube to another and measuring it out – and I see the birthdates of the patients who’ve had brain tumors [removed], and they’re like four years old, three years old,” Boggs continued. “It’s just extremely sad that those kids’ lives are changed forever and it just really puts things into perspective.”
While Boggs spends much of his time at Children’s Hospital Boston in the lab, he also regularly visits with patients through the Revolution’s monthly trips. He recently joined a group of teammates decked out in full Halloween costumes to trick-or-treat around the hospital with patients and do their part to help brighten the days of the children.
It’s a venture Boggs believes is just as important as his work in the lab.
“Mainly when I go there I’m in a lab, but just to see the kids is pretty awesome,” he said. “We always go as a team once a month and it’s just a great chance to be with each other and to be with the kids, of course, and to give something back.
“I always get more out of volunteering than I seem to put in,” Boggs concluded. “At least in my mind I think that. I don’t want to be selfish, so I just try to go as many times as I can.”