Dr. Chuma Ononye

Friday night Recreational soccer matches at Gaston United Soccer Club in Gastonia always produce a mixed bag of emotions for parents and onlookers. The goals, of course, produce cheers and jeers. The collisions and falls make everyone cringe. And, then there’s Nneka, Dr. Chuma Ononye’s 8-year-old daughter, who bears a striking resemblance to her father who passed away suddenly last November. Every run, every kick and every grimace brings to mind memories of a man with an effervescent personality whose legacy still looms large in the GUSC family. 

“Every time I go out to the fields where we used to play with Chuma I let him know how I wish he could be playing with us and that I miss him,” says John Kelly, Chuma’s neighbor and friend. “His beaming smile and soulful laugh, not to mention his all-or-nothing style of defending, was priceless. When we play, I’ll often smile when something funny happens and I can hear Chuma’s commentary in my head.”

Dr. Ononye’s wife, Lisa, and the GUSC community have bonded together to remember the Nigeria native with the Dr. Chuma Ononye Scholarship Fund for Girls, which affords soccer-playing opportunities for girls who might not otherwise have the means to play. As the father of two daughters—Adaora, 9, is the oldest Ononye child—it is a fitting tribute to a man who loved his family and the “beautiful game” and who left us way too soon at the age of 48.

“What a great human being,” said Jeff Phillips, a family friend and Nneka’s coach. “He really had such a profound impact on everyone who met him. This scholarship fund is a great way to keep his memory alive. But we miss him.”

For more information about the Dr. Chuma Ononye Scholarship Fund for Girls or to make a donation, send a payment to Gaston United Soccer Club. (Write “Dr. Ononye Scholarship Fund for Girls” in the memo line.) Payments should be mailed to Gaston United Soccer Club, 3434 S. New Hope Rd., Gastonia, NC 28056. 

One-hundred percent of all contributions will go to the Dr. Chuma Ononye Scholarship Fund for Girls.