By Mike Stancik
Special to Viva Loudoun
Ashburn (Oct. 16, 2013) – Six years ago, former Washington Redskin Chris Cooley formulated an idea to honor breast cancer patients, including his own mother, who was battling the deadly disease. It may have been a small event back then, but as Cooley looked around a packed cafeteria at Redskins Park on Tuesday, he took a moment to reflect.
“There’s no way I could have believed it would have been as big as it is now,” Cooley, the two-time Pro Bowler, said. “I had the idea and I talked to Jordana Taylor (in charge of Redskins charity work) and we put it together. After year one it was a success, and I thought that was so cool. And year two it got bigger and the Redskins added more. Now the team is so intrical in making this what it is, and the thanks is really to Dan and Tanya Snyder and the Redskins for making this event. It was my idea, and I’m so proud to be a part of it, but ultimately the Redskins are amazing in our community.”
The Washington Redskins hosted the sixth annual All-Star Survivors Celebration on Oct. 15, honoring 20 women currently battling breast cancer in support of the NFL’s Breast Cancer Awareness campaign. The women enjoyed massages, personal makeup consultation, and a private tour of Redskins Park as several current Redskins did their best to make the women “feel like queens,” as Keenan Robinson explained. They will also be in attendance for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears, where the group will create a fan tunnel when Washington takes the field.
“Ultimately, it’s such an unbelievable experience for the 20 women that get invited, that it means the world to me,” Cooley, whose mother is five-years cancer-free now, added. “The coolest thing to me is they come in and think “what are we doing at Redskins park?” By the end of the week when they’re cheering on the sideline for the players coming out of the tunnel and you see them loving life and smiling, it’s so special. A lot of times when you do charities you don’t get to impact people directly, and this is an event that directly impacts and interacts with these women on a personal basis. There’s almost as many players here as there are women involved.”
There were indeed plenty of players involved in the event, including: Doug Worthington, Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Barry Cofield, Keenan Robinson, Stephen Bowen, Reed Doughty, Darryl Tapp, Josh Wilson, Tyler Polumbus, Darrel Young, and Josh Morgan. One of the more comical parts of the day involved Griffin III and Wilson trying on wigs, and the players sincerely made every effort possible to make it a special day for the women.
“These people are in a real fight, you think about gameday and you think it’s intense, but these people are fighting for their lives,” Cofield said. “They’re as strong as anybody on the football field, and I’m just glad to be here. It’s a great opportunity to use your whatever fame you have, you should definitely maximize that. If I can make someone happy for a day signing autographs and taking pictures, it’s all my pleasure.”
One of the women treated to a memorable day was Thelma Jones, a current volunteer for the American Cancer Society, who was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer in 2007. She is still undergoing hormonal treatment, but Tuesday is a day she and other patients won’t soon forget.
“Just always reading about and hearing about Redskins Park, it was something that I didn’t think I’d ever make it to,” Jones explained. “But now that I’m actually here, met some of the wonderful players, I just feel like I’m in seventh heaven now. It’s more than a dream come true. The players really think it’s important to be involved. There is a human side to everyone, and they’re showing that side of them today.”
Although it was an off-day for the Redskins, it shows how involved the players are in the community by having so many partake in the event. For players like Robinson, they believe it’s vital to give back to the community that supports its football team unconditionally.
“It’s all about giving back to the community, and it was our day off so why not come out and help out for a good cause?” Robinson added. “We try to help [the women] get away from all the pain and suffering they’re going through, we just want them to get away from it for a few hours. It’s very important just because we’re role models so we have to make sure whatever we do is in a good image. All these kids in elementary, middle, and high school look up to us and if they see us giving back, they will probably be motivated to follow in our footsteps. It helps to set a trend so young kids can watch us do the right things and hopefully they’ll be more likely to do those things themselves when they’re older.”