I first became involved with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through Fox NFL Sunday. Every year, we select a charity to support on our show and in 2010, we chose St. Jude. If you aren’t familiar with the incredible work St. Jude does, I’ll fill you in: founded in 1962, by entertainer Danny Thomas, its mission is nothing short of awesome—to find the cures and means of prevention to knock out childhood cancers and other catastrophic pediatric diseases with research and treatment. The most amazing thing about St. Jude is that they allow the kids to be treated and bring their whole family along, too, without paying a thing. And that’s when you really understand what a special place St. Jude’s is.
My first real experience with the hospital was when I flew to Memphis, so I could support St. Jude by shooting a commercial at the hospital (click here to check out one of my early P.S.A.’s; the kids are just too cute). The feeling I had when I left there was beyond words: I was so impressed with the kids because they brought everyone around them so much joy—which was pretty surprising, because you expect to kind of feel down (these little ones are fighting some of the most devastating childhood diseases in existence), but instead, they just make you feel great. And that’s been the best part of what I do for St. Jude’s: spending time with the kids. The conversations we have, just witnessing them be so strong and smart and resilient. They really just give you hope. I love shooting the commercials for the St. Jude campaigns every year, because every year there are usually different kids, which is really cool because it means that a lot of kids are being treated, healed, and they’re going home.
I’ve met so many amazing, inspiring kids through St. Jude, but one in particular was a young man named Shon Coleman who was a high school football player. He was given a full scholarship to Auburn University, in Alabama, but then he found out he had cancer, so he had to go to St. Jude instead. I’ll never forget meeting him: he was this big, strong kid and playing one of the toughest sports. But then I realized he was so vulnerable and fighting the hardest battle of his life against cancer so he could get healthy and go to college, and then make his way the pros. That experience with Shon has always been pretty special to me.
And that’s one of the reasons why I will always support St. Jude however I can: getting the chance to connect with these amazing kids and their families, and seeing firsthand the hope they have is not only good for them, it’s good for me, too. To check out how you can get involved, too, visit stjude.org.