FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It’s no secret that the New England Revolution take great pride in their philanthropic work, and the nature of professional sports is that every now and again, you need someone new to step up to the plate.
That is exactly what Revolution goalkeeper Matt Tuner is doing, as he starts his own Never Ever Give Up (NEGU) Crew this season in partnership with the Jessie Rees Foundation after former NEGU ambassador Kelyn Rowe was traded to Sporting Kansas City during the offseason.
“Kelyn always knew that I was really interested in being a part of it,” said Turner. “I’m really involved with hospital visits like the ones at Boston Children’s Hospital, and so it was just something that when Kelyn brought it up to me, it was a no brainer. I said yes immediately, and I’m really excited.”
Rowe brought the NEGU Crew to New England in 2015 after a college friend involved with the Jessie Rees Foundation reached out with an idea. Since then, the NEGU Crew - which supports children and families fighting battles with cancer - has become a beloved tradition for the Revolution organization, team and fans.
These heartfelt visits to Gillette Stadium are a truly unique game day experience, where the heroic children have a chance to meet the team, watch the players’ warm-ups from the sidelines, and walk on the field after the match and be cheered on for their courageous efforts by loyal Revs supporters.
Turner and Rowe have always had a close bond as teammates, both holding a genuine desire to continually give back to the community. Both players have always been the first to raise their hands to help out with philanthropic work.
In the midst of a long and travel-intensive season, Turner has been found bringing smiles to kids everywhere, from making late-night visits to Hasbro Children’s Hospital and leading a game of Simon Says, to creating baked goods out of Play-Doh with the brave youngsters at Massachusetts General Hospital, to even having a lip sync battle with kids at Boston Children’s Hospital. It was no question that Turner was the perfect person to whom Rowe could pass the torch.
“The hospital visits are one part of it,” said Turner. “To (now) be able to show them what my world is like after showing me what their world is, just really completes the whole process. I’m really excited to show these kids a great time, and I know The Fort and everybody in New England will support them, as well.”
While Turner has always had an interest in the NEGU Crew, there was one special, inimitable moment that stuck out to the goalkeeper from Rowe’s efforts on and off the pitch.
Late in the 2017 season, a special member of Kelyn’s NEGU Crew, Devin Suau, was in the middle of a battle with a rare brain tumor. The brave young patient was scheduled to visit Gillette Stadium for a game with the Jessie Rees Foundation, but unfortunately was unable due to medical reasons.
Devin then signed with the Revs as an honorary team member right before he tragically lost his courageous fight. The team honored Devin with armbands in his memory at the last game of the campaign against Montreal, and Rowe scored an extremely moving goal that gave the Revs the win with the last kick.
“I’ll never forget the goal he scored at the end of the season in 2017 against Montreal with the whole Devin’s Army situation,” said Turner. “With Devin passing and Kelyn then scoring a goal, everything about that was super emotional.
"It was something that transcended the sport. To be able to have that possibility is something that I’m really grateful for.”
With all of the smiles that Turner has already given to children through his charity work, the Revolution organization knows that he will shine as he brings Matt’s NEGU Crew to a new level this coming season, beginning with the first visit on Saturday, March 30, when the Revs host Minnesota United FC at Gillette Stadium.