A light rain and muddy soccer pitches didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits at a Palm Beach recreation center on Saturday, Dec. 10.
About 300 adults and kids came out to play a series of soccer matches in celebration of the life of 11-year-old Oakley Debbs, who died of a severe anaphylactic reaction over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Players dressed in white uniforms and red footwear – as part of the Debbs family’s Red Sneakers campaign to raise awareness of the severity of food allergies. Oakley had been a gifted athlete – and soccer was his preferred sport, and red his favorite shoe color.
While still coming to terms with losing their son, Merrill and Robert Debbs and their extended family were determined to celebrate Oakley’s life with the soccer event, the continuing #livlikeOaks hashtag on social media – and a call for people to wear red sneakers as a sign of support for their son and the food allergy cause.
“This is where he started playing soccer when he was 4,” Merrill Debbs told the Palm Beach Daily News of the recreation center. “I can’t believe this many people are here to support us.”
“A day like today we are looking to memorialize Oakley,” said her husband Robert Debbs. “This is what he wanted to do. He’d want to be here with all his friends running around, music playing, having the best and he’d have his red sneakers on.”
Oakley enjoyed playing several sports and was a competitive marathoner. In summers, he also worked with the New Jersey Wildcats ice hockey team. In his honor, they have recently played with red hockey sticks.