KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Sporting Kansas City is at the top of Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference and has clinched a spot in the playoffs.
But the players on the team do more than just play soccer. They're also doing their part to help raise money for childhood cancer research.
Teaming up with Olathe-based Braden's Hope for Childhood Cancer, 12 Sporting players took pictures with 12 children with cancer to create a 2013 calendar.
Layla Hefter is one of those children. Diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on July 31, 2007, at the age of 2, she endured aggressive cancer treatment until she was 5.
"You see your kid go through what they go through and you can't protect them," Layla's mother, Alecia Hefter, said.
Now, at age 7, Layla wants to be a soccer player when she grows up -- Likely something she decided after posing with Konrad Warzycha for the Braden's Hope calendar.
"They're so great with the kids and it's so nice to see pro athletes take the time to meet with our kids," Hefter said about the team's involvement with the fundraising effort.
Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen appears as January for the calendar with a little boy named Joseph, who was diagnosed with Stage III Neuroblastoma when he was only 2 years old.
"I'm glad we could do something with the kids and give them a funny day," Nielsen said. "Not only did the kids have a funny day, I think all the players too had a blast."
The calendars are $15 and all the money goes to Braden's Hope that will dedicate it to cancer research.
DeCloud Studios partnered with Braden's Hope to take the photographs, donating its services and designing the calendar.
Last year's calendar with the Kansas City Chiefs raised $10,000. Braden's Hope wants to double that this year and raise $20,000 with the calendar.
"No child should have to go through what these children go through and every little bit helps," Hefter said. "It's $15 for a calendar. Anyone can afford $15 and that little bit will save a child's life."
To buy a calendar and learn more about Braden's Hope, visit www.bradenshope.org