Changing Lives Beyond Burgers and Fries

November 19, 2010

When he was six years old Mike rode his bike to school everyday with his best friend Matt. It was, well…normal.  Then one day Matt didn’t show up and when he failed to show up for several more days, Mike’s mom sat him down to explain why.

I remember her trying to explain what was going on but I had no idea what she was talking about.

What Mike’s mom tried to explain to her son, who was suddenly missing his best friend, was that Matt had leukemia and that he was at an area hospital receiving treatment.

The next thing I knew I was spending my Saturday nights at a really cool place where I could see Matt and where we were allowed to play with toys and hang late. It was great and I was even allowed to stay overnight.

That was thirty years ago and the “cool place” was the Ronald McDonald House of Southern, N.J.  Matt fully recovered from his illness and although they’re not riding bikes anymore they’re still friends and see each other on occasion. However, Mike’s connection to the Ronald McDonald House didn’t end there.  Just a few years ago he and his wife spent several nights in the Ronald McDonald House in Tampa Bay when their daughter was born premature.

We were willing to stay at a hotel but the head nurse in the ICU insisted we stay at the Ronald McDonald House. It was incredible and it changed my life. We thought it was just for families that couldn’t afford a hotel but it’s more than that. I was part of the volunteer workforce – my job was to clean the hallways and I loved it.

The other really great part about being there was the people we met and the people that worked at the House.  There was a little boy who was about 13 who had tourette syndrome.  He and I became close through our common interest in football and we ended up playing catch everyday at the university next to the hospital.  I think I enjoyed our time throwing the football more than he did.  I’ll always remember the big smile on his face. What I didn’t know was that he was an accomplished pianist, a prodigy I think. His dad recently sent me his CD and we still keep in touch. His name is Matt.”

Mike nominated Ronald McDonald House Charities because they changed his life. His fantasy team sits comfortably in second place with a 7-3 record in his division. He’ll make the playoffs and will rely on “Big Ben,” Roddy White, and Adrian Peterson to carry him to the championship. Should he win his league will help him donate $200 to a Ronald McDonald Home in his name.

Please share your “House” story with us and check out our next post as we go inside the first ever Ronald McDonald House with Kelly Hays O’Connor, the Communications Manager at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House.

Huge Win for Team Payton!

November 14, 2010

 

Team Payton Kicks Off Week 10 with a Big Win!

 

Team Payton, Week 10, Part II

November 10, 2010

 

Payton and Her Captain (Momma)

 

At the beginning of August, 2005, Payton ran a fever for two consecutive weeks and what was originally thought to be a urinary tract infection was much worse. On August 16th, our eight month old daughter was diagnosed with nueroblastoma, a form of childhood cancer that attacks the nerve cells and accounts for 7% of all childhood cancers. Nothing in the world could have prepared us for the news and had it not been for the strength of our family and friends, and the incredible staff at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia (her special hospital), I’m not sure how we would have made it through the those dreadful few weeks.

Two weeks after diagnosis Payton was operated on and her tumor, the size of an egg, was removed without any complications.  According to her surgeon it peeled perfectly from her adrenal gland and kidney which meant the cancer, in all likelihood, did not attach itself to any of her tissue or organs.

For two years following her surgery she underwent a series of tests, often painful, to confirm that she was cancer free.  These were difficult because she was no longer a baby, but a toddler who knew what pain was.  It was during this time that I came to see just how strong my baby girl was and how unbelievably well she handled adversity.

She never received chemotherapy or radiation and the only noticeable reminder of her trauma is a small scar on her belly. Throughout the entire ordeal she remained brave and to this day has absolutely no problem sitting in a hospital, getting an ultrasound, or even interacting with hospital staff. She’s a true champ.  However, the experience has altered our family in profound and meaningful ways.

For Jennifer and I our first few years of parenting were defined by overwhelming emotions of fear, gratitude, uncertainty, love, anger and relief.  Not to mention the fact that we had to make sure our new baby didn’t feel neglected as Payton’s situation often commanded our full attention. But through it all the one constant we’ve managed to rely on has always been the support of what we now call – Team Payton. This team consists of our family and friends who have been touched by Payton’s story and stories of their own, and who give back in ways that allow children like Payton to have fighting chance.

 

A Pearl

 

This week Team Payton is participating in the Second Annual Lemon Run to raise money for childhood cancer research.  The Team proudly supports Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation which is the organization I have nominated in each of my fantasy football leagues.

My feeling is that with all of the good stuff happening on Sunday – Week 10 is in the bag.

Please Click Here to join Team Payton – we would love to have you.   Or, if you already signed up for the race, stop by the Team Payton table for a cup of coffee, a bagel, or just to say hello.

Please Click Here for more information on the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

Team Payton, Week 10 – Part I

November 9, 2010

 

Payton 8 mos.

 

On June 17, 2005 I stepped off the plane at the Atlantic City Airport and was greeted by my wife Jennifer and six month old daughter Payton.  I should have known something was up because my wife had never met me at the airport – never!  On our ride home she handed me a Father’s Day card which read – “You’re a great father and you will be again.”  I was confused.  I’m not sure if it was the three day trip to Myrtle Beach with “the boys” or if I was in a weird state of denial but I picked my head up to ask her what she meant and noticed tears of joy running down her face.  She then told me she was pregnant with our second child. (Did I mention our first baby was only six months old?)

For the next several minutes I sat in disbelief as we traveled north on the Atlantic City Expressway.  We knew everything would be all right but we didn’t exactly know what to do next.  We talked about our next steps and I came to learn that Jen found out about “baby number 2″ while I was away and didn’t want to tell me until we were together. For the next two months we prepared for our new arrival and then our lives were forever altered.

Stay tuned…

Running With Heroes – Preview to Week 9

November 2, 2010

On Sunday afternoon I caught the tail end of a either a pre-game show or a half time presentation (I can’t remember which) featuring Jared from Subway.  You know the guy – he basically single handedly revived the franchise.  Anyway, he was talking about his decision to train for the upcoming NYC Marathon, which I knew he was doing but for the life of me couldn’t figure out what he was doing in the midst of some serious fantasy talk.  So I did some digging.

I’m not sure I have completely figured it out but what I learned is that Patrick “Seton” O’Connor (of the Dan Patrick Show) and his brother David are teaming up with the Boomer Esiason Foundation  and running the New York City Marathon to help raise money to fight Cystic Fibrosis (CF). Boomer’s son, Gunnar, was diagnosed at an early age and shortly thereafter the Boomer Esiason Foundation was created. Patrick and David are both impacted by the disease through their family.

Running under Team Boomer, Seton’s rallying cry is “Beat Jared”  and it must be working because his crew has managed to raise over $10,000 in under a month. The race kicks off this Sunday (November 7 – Week 9) and although I’ve never once watched it I may tune it to root on Team Boomer. Not that I have anything against a dude that made a million bucks by eating subs but I’m pulling for Patrick and David because they remind me of someone I know.

Like Patrick and David, there are heroes working and praying to find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis each and everyday.  In New Jersey, there’s a hero who recently ran a short run for families battling a different kind of challenge yet he himself faces the reality of CF every single day.

 

Steve Fohring

 

Last year Steve Fohring finished 248th out of 390 in the Heroes to Hero 5K Run in Gloucester, N.J. The race is run every year to honor three firefighters and three young children who perished in a house fire on July 4, 2002, in that city. Now Steve’s not Jared or a guest host on a popular sports show, he’s just a regular guy who lives with his wife and two beautiful girls outside of Philadelphia.

However, the amazing thing about Steve is how he and his wife conduct themselves in the face of adversity and how they provide hope and inspiration to their two beautiful daughters who are battling CF.  In the face of this tremendous adversity he still finds time to inspire, and get inspired.  In addition to the Heroes to Hero run Steve and his wife completed the ING Half Marathon in Philadelphia and although I’ve not heard any formal announcement he may be training beat Jared next year.

Steve’s a committed father and husband who places his daughters’ health above all else and works hard to continue to raise awareness at every opportunity.  His daughters

 

Avery and Keira

 

Avery (8) and Keira (3) are his inspiration and the reason you’ll always see him smiling.

His team stands atop his fantasy league (with Foster and Gates it’s no wonder) and should he win his league all of his donation will go to seeking a cure for CF through the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.  Good luck to Steve, Patrick and David – beat Jared and this terrible disease!

CYSTIC FIBROSIS is a fatal genetic disorder that affects more than 30,000 Americans, usually the most vulnerable among us: our children. Although cystic fibrosis is not yet curable, the good news is that the situation is not hopeless. Learn more>

Three Projected Stars & a Little More

October 29, 2010

According to FootballGuys.Com the  following players should rack up points in Week 8. Here’s a quick look at some things they’ve done off the field and the organizations they represent.

Peyton ManningPeyBack Foundation

Frank Gore - When U Dream A Dream Foundation

Reggie Wayne - Wishing on Stars Celebrity Serve

Some “gOARgeous” Chicks Rule Week 7

October 25, 2010

This week we’re going to look past McFadden’s masterful performance and Kenny Britt’s ridiculous game – this week the focus is entirely on a “gOARgeous” group of women from New Jersey, many of whom are the wives of players in the Kings Gate East Fantasy Football League.

Officially the girls aren’t part of the league but by virtue of their commitment to several worthwhile endeavors (including a good party), and their continued patience on game day, they get front and center on the FS4K stage.

On Saturday, October 24th, the “crew” capped off several weeks of rowing practice by participating in a the Dragon Boat race. The event, officially called the Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival, draws over 150 teams from across the region, many of whom dedicate their efforts to drive awareness for several terrific causes. Their day began at 4:00 a.m. and with the help of a few seasoned tailgate “professionals” put together an incredible event for everyone that participated.

In addition to this event this “crew” directs their efforts to several great events and causes throughout the year and always throw their support to local and national endeavors to that help those in need. It was great to spend the day with them (all of whom are great friends) and great to see our logo on their banner – something that we didn’t see coming but will forever make the FS4K crew smile.

Great job, “One gOARgeous Crew!”

Who Cares about the Boys and Girls of America?

October 9, 2010

John Gibson lives in Virginia where he participates in three fantasy leagues. In two of those leagues he is playing for the Boys and Girls Club of America. If he wins either league then the organization gets $200, and $400 if he wins both leagues. Unfortunately for the Boys and Girls Club nothing short of an act of god will provide “Gib” with the opportunity to take home two titles in one year. I’ve seen his lineups and it doesn’t look promising. But either way, it’s not all that bad for the B & C Club, particularly if others have nominated the organization.

 

Image Credit - NFLPA.Com

 

On the other side of the country, while Brian Westbrook of the 49ers prepares for the arrival of his former team, there are 150 children living near Gibson who are rooting for Number 20.  Last month, through a partnership between Brian’s Blessings (Westbrook’s charity) and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, “B. West” (we go way back) was able to fill 150 backpacks with school supplies for less fortunate children.  Although he was unable to be on hand Brian’s parents filled in for him and help distribute the backpacks, a wonderful gesture by the Westbrook family. (read the full story here)

So who cares about the boys and girls of America? I know two guys that do and although I don’t know if Westbrook will make it in Gibson’s lineups you can bet he’s pulling for him, along with several other families in the D.C. area.

To learn more about Brian’s Blessings click here. To inquire about volunteer opportunities with the Boys and Girls Club click here. To contact John Gibson leave a comment on this post – he’ll see it.

Pink Splattered Stars

October 4, 2010

If you watched a minute of football this weekend then you saw pink. It was on uniforms, hats, cleats and even the referees got involved – I saw one with a pink lanyard and whistle.

Tonight the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots will do their part in raising awareness for breast cancer by honoring 100 cancer survivors during a special half time ceremony.  The news of this ceremony got me thinking about how breast cancer takes its toll on families, and more specifically the children of those impacted by this disease.

It didn’t take very long to come across a few resources that talked about this but the one I found most compelling was a blog called Kids of Breast Cancer. Here, children can openly post and discuss their experiences with dealing with mothers and fathers who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. This is certainly not the only forum for this type of discussion but for some it may be a simple and easy way to express their feelings about their experience.

So tonight, when you see the pink hats, shoes, socks and whistles, think about the women and men who take the field every day to fight this disease and their teams at home that help them fight.

A New Reality of Fantasy Football

October 2, 2010

On his blog Social Entrepreneurship, Nathaniel Whittemore predicted that 2010 would include “a significant uptick in the importance of online platforms that allow for socially-minded action beyond just more effective fundraising.” Included in his post was the use of the term “socially-minded action,” which we, as fantasy football geeks, have the opportunity to explore and embrace from the comfort of our own couch.

While most of us enjoy everything about fantasy football (add/drop deadlines, the roller coaster rides of game day, the injury reports and the start ‘em sit ‘em’s) we also have the opportunity to add another level of participation to our seasonal obsession; the ability to eek out a piece of our fantasy frenzy and change the reality for those who need it most.

Last week’s post about Cutler, diabetes, and members of FS4K who are connected to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is a perfect example of how we can change the lives of many simply by introducing a “socially-minded” element to this activity.

Programs like FS4K, FantasyHealthball, and even Fantasy Sports for Mathematics are changing the way we interact with fantasy sports. These are positive movements that enhance our experience, improve the lives of many and provide a few extra plays in the playbooks of those that need it most.

So what are you doing to enhance the world around you through your participation in fantasy football?  We’d love to hear about it.



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