In Belgrade on business, last November, Mima Nedelcovych received a call from his wife at 3 a.m., telling him their oldest son, Chris, 17, was in critical condition in a hospital after a car crash.
Immediately heading back to Reston, he was changing planes in Frankfurt when he called home and learned his son had died. He deals with the tragedy, he said, "like a mule that just keeps pulling along — you have to."
Chris and the Centreville teen driving the car in which he was a passenger were both seniors and varsity soccer players at Westfield High. The driver, now 18, pleaded guilty Monday to reckless driving, but it doesn't stop the pain Chris's parents feel.
"I play this over in my mind, every night and wake up screaming," said his mother, Sally Nedelcovych. "Everything he was looking forward to — spring soccer, the prom, graduation, college — was all taken away. The independent part of his life was just beginning, and he was cheated out of it."
She described Chris as energetic and enthusiastic — a happy person with a zest for life. She said he and his brother, Michael, 14, were "the center of my universe." Chris hoped to go into sports marketing after college and had applied for early admission to the University of Tampa — one of the top soccer schools in the U.S. Said his mother: "He died Nov. 14, and they called a few days later to tell him he was accepted."
He'd helped coach Michael's U-15 youth-soccer team, the Herndon Premier, instilling a love for the game in the young players and turning around their previously disappointing season. In his college-application essay, he said he was pleased to have inspired them so much and to have made such a difference in their lives. He also hoped to coach again, someday.
So to honor their son's memory — and enable him to continue helping others, even in death — Chris' parents established the Chris Nedelcovych Scholarship Fund (CNSF) for youth soccer coaches. They'll award 24 scholarships for a week-long, residential camp teaching the techniques of coaching youth soccer.
Boys and girls, 17 and up, will coach 9- and 10-year-olds, and the first camp will be held, June 23-28, in Hagerstown, Md.
"We've got $80,000 now in the fund and are shooting for $150,000, by year's end, to be able to endow it in perpetuity," said Chris' dad. "I would like [the Centreville boy's] family to contribute an appropriate amount toward filling the remaining gap." By having the camp, he explained, "Chris' life can still make a difference."