While most boys typically ask for Legos or video games for their ninth birthday, Cristian Milazzo (pictured right) decided he already had everything he needed. Instead of presents, Cristian asked for others to donate to the Kirk Urso Memorial Fund for his ninth birthday to honor the soccer player he admired during Urso's four years at the University of North Carolina.
"It was no-brainer for us," Cristian's father, Michael Milazzo said. "We talked about Cristian's birthday and what he wanted to do, and of course it was going to be a soccer theme. He just said 'Dad, I have everything I need. Wouldn't it be great that instead of getting presents, if all my friends and family donated to the Kirk Urso Memorial Fund?' We're very proud of him. His birthday coincides with the Memorial Game, so it was a no-brainer."
His father continued, "Kirk's influence during his time at UNC on Cristian, not only as an individual and a person, but obviously as a soccer player, it really carried on with Cristian. When Kirk was drafted by the Columbus Crew, Cristian followed his career. He's always been a fan of the Crew and always been a fan of the Tar Heels. He really looked up to Kirk. Kirk always found the time after games at Fetzer Field during his time at Carolina to spend time with all the fans."
Michael earned varsity letters playing collegiately for North Carolina in 1993-94, and has raised his son to be a Tar Heel fan. As a former player, Milazzo says Urso's character portrayed everything a Tar Heel should be.
"For us, Kirk exemplified what a Tar Heel is: competing on the field, being a leader and embracing the community," he said. "I think those three things spoke volumes to Kirk's character. He competed the whole 90 minutes and then spent time after the game win, lose or draw with all the fans signing autographs and engaging with the young, aspiring soccer players. Cristian was fortunate to be one of them."
The Milazzos will be bringing a party of around 20 friends and family members to Greensboro on February 24 for the inaugural Kirk Urso Memorial Match. Milazzo expects strong support for the event.
"We're really looking forward to it," he said. "I think from the moment the soccer community here learned of Kirk's passing, I think they've embraced his life as a celebration.
"This is a wonderful gesture from the Columbus Crew and UNC to honor him in this way. I know this will be a special day."