On June 2 of this year a little girl named Leah Still was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma and given a 50-50 chance of survival. Soon after she underwent a comprehensive six-hour surgery to remove a tumor from her body to help stop the cancer that was attacking her bone marrow. Since the surgery she is doing well, but still not cancer free.
With over 13,000 young kids being diagnosed with cancer each year, four year old Leah is only one thousands bravely fighting a ruthless disease that still has no cure. Each one of these children wake up every day fighting to keep smile on their face despite enduring endless rounds of chemotherapy and numerous surgeries and other painful procedures just to stay alive. It can be tiring, frustrating and scary, but they do it. They live on, making the best of their situation because that’s the only thing they can do.
For the parents of these brave children, it can also be tiring, frustrating and scary. With a cure still beyond the horizon it can be a helpless feeling watching your son or daughter endure their battle with cancer each and every day. Many struggle with finances as they try to provide the best healthcare available for their child and do their best to try to raise money to find a cure on the side, but it can be tough. Some however have the resources to help out, and that’s where Leah’s father comes in.
Leah’s father is Devon Still, a defensive tackle on the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad. After her diagnosis the Bengals started a fundraiser pledging all the proceeds from the sale of Still’s jersey to pediatric cancer research. So far the fundraiser has been an overwhelming success, with the Bengals raising over $1 million to be pledged to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. But it’s not over yet.
In addition to the public showing up in overwhelming numbers to make Still’s jersey the number one seller in the NFL, his teammates and players and coaches from opposing teams have also pitched in. Recently Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith purchased several of Still’s jerseys to help out the cause, and then pledged to give away the jerseys when the Ravens play the Bengals October 26 in Cincinnati.
When Smith, who shares an agent with Still, was asked his reasons behind purchasing the jerseys he said it was simply the right thing to do.
“He’s one of our brothers in this league, and any time I have the opportunity to support him, as well as any of the other kids in the country who are fighting childhood cancer, it’s something that if I can help, I will,” said Smith. “Even if I didn’t know him, it’s something I would have done. It’s a great cause. It’s something that, obviously, I can’t personally relate to because it’s his daughter fighting for her life and she’s a very strong young lady. I have a young son, and I can only imagine what it’s like.”
With his purchase Smith joins a long list of NFL players and professional athletes to join in on the cause of raising funds for pediatric cancer through the sale of Still’s jersey. Though the story is heartbreaking, it is uplifting to know that they have his back during this tough time in his life, and by having his number on their back, everyone who has purchased a jersey and continues to work towards a cure for cancer also has the back of the thousands of children and families also battling every day.
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