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McTavish fighting Crohn's for himself, others

By Patrick ThurstonAs a junior in high school Devon McTavish became ill. It took doctors a number of weeks to correctly diagnose the illness, but eventually he was told that he had Crohn's disease. Eight years later McTavish still lives with Crohn's, but it hasn't stopped him from becoming an established member of both D.C. United and the greater Washington, D.C. community.

McTavish's own plight with the disease has given him added impetus to involve himself with various charitable organizations and initiatives. In the past two years, McTavish has been involved with Patient Services Incorporated (PSI), the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), and has helped to raise money and awareness about soccer goalpost safety following the tragic death of a young soccer player who hailed from his hometown of Winchester, Va. "It's an organization designed to try and help families who have loved ones that from chronic diseases and don't have enough money to provide healthcare for them -- don't have enough money to buy medication or for doctors visits," said McTavish about PSI. "It's a great organization. I have Crohn's disease and I constantly have to have medication and have to go the doctor, so I think I make a good spokesman for them."

As a sufferer of Crohn's disease, the CCFA is of obvious importance to McTavish and it is perhaps with them that he has become most involved.

"I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in high school," said McTavish. "It's a growing problem and they're doing research on it and haven't really found a cure for it. I teamed up with CCFA and started getting more involved with the organization and last year I threw a birthday party. It was my 24th and it was on 08-08-08, so I figured I had to throw a party for that one. I charged some money at the door and all the proceeds went to CCFA."

McTavish is not saving his humanitarian contributions strictly for annual celebrations. CCFA will be hosting a night at RFK Stadium this season to further raise money and awareness.

"Certain kids will be chosen and provided tickets and they'll have food set up at the stadium and they will be educated about Crohn's and Colitis and how the organization (CCFA) is trying to help those who have been diagnosed with it," said McTavish.

It was McTavish's willingness to involve himself -- and his club -- in community matters that saw the West Virginia University product reach out to a local family who had tragically lost a son.

"He was playing soccer on a local field in my hometown. He was playing in goal and randomly the goal fell on him and killed him instantly," said McTavish. "They set up a foundation to raise money and awareness and they have camps. I've been out there and brought my family there and kind of become a little bit closer to his family." McTavish continues to raise awareness on that subject.

When you look at the time commitment that McTavish gives off the field it might seem surprising that McTavish has made such huge strides on the field as well. When asked about his progress as a player he reveals the same modesty which shows up when he is away from the field.

"Everybody's got a different path ... but I got to where I wanted to go, so I was happy," McTavish said about his somewhat quiet collegiate career. Flying under the radar is "kind of how it's been throughout my career."

Yet it would take more than Crohn's disease to shake McTavish's confidence.

"I knew -- especially going into college -- that it wasn't going to be easy and that I had a lot of stuff to work on but self-belief kind of led me and I had some coaches through college that believed in me too and put me on the right path," he said.

That path was to the ranks of D.C. United, the team McTavish followed as a youth player, which he said "made it even that much better." He was selected in the last round of the MLS Supplemental Draft in 2006. McTavish proceeded to claim a roster spot with D.C. and has gone on to become a first team regular in his second and third MLS seasons. McTavish, who has 54 career league appearances with United, said that the real secret to his development has been to associate with the right kind of people.

"I surrounded myself with some good individuals, some good veteran players like Ben Olsen, Greg Vanney and Brian Namoff," said McTavish. "So I've learned from them and watched them and tried to emulate some of their styles in my play. I've been fortunate. My second year I stepped into a role where we had some injuries and found a little bit of success and the coaching staff got confidence in me from there."

McTavish's respect for the aforementioned veterans extends beyond the field of play, as it does for the rest of D.C. United and Major League Soccer as a whole.

"D.C. United is very established in the community. The organization bestows on you as rookies that you need to get involved in the community and go out and do certain things," he said of his club.

"Everyone has their little roles and that's what I think is great about MLS. There are a lot of good guys ... we're pretty level-headed. We're pretty down to earth and we realize that we have an opportunity to go out and do some good with the time we have. We take pride in it."

In addition to his already extensive list of affiliations, McTavish will also serve as Honorary Chair of the National Capital Area Take Steps Walk in 2009.

For more information on Patient Services Incorporated (PSI), visit their official website at www.uneedpsi.org. For more information on the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), visit their official website at www.ccfa.org.