The following content is created in consultation with Tackle Kids Cancer. It does not reflect the work or opinions of NBC New York’s editorial staff. To learn more about Tackle Kids Cancer, visit Tacklekidscancer.org.
Declan, Sean, Addison and Hayden – four kids tackling cancer. Four kids who taught me so much during the interviews I conducted at their homes this past week. But it wasn’t just the kids who were amazing – it was their families. Their love and devotion could not be measured by the length of a football field. It is far more than that. It’s an endearing love that cannot easily be defined.
For me, it was a wonderful opportunity to join the Tackle Kids Cancer team. I was tasked with interviewing four families in two days and sharing their personal stories with our viewers. I laughed a lot but cried even more. But more than anything else, I left with admiration and respect for youngsters, who continue to dream of a life without having to deal with this dreaded disease. When eight-year-old Hayden told me he can’t wait until 2027, I wondered why. “I will be cancer free that year,” he said. My heart sank for one moment and then I smiled to support him and said, “wow, I can’t wait either!”
Tackle Kids Cancer funds research so someday we will live in a world that is cancer-free. Their mission is inspiring. Their support is unwavering. They believe that no family should have to endure what these four families have gone through. I admire their commitment and respect the effort they have made to make this world a better place to live, laugh and learn.
I think of one-year-old Declan often. After all I have an eight-month-old granddaughter of my own. I loved his boundless energy and his curiosity as he circled the room during my interview with his parents. It is 100 days since his bone marrow transplant and I pray his recovery will continue to go well as he continues to inspire all of us.
When 15-year-old Sean returns to high school in 2018, I would like to be there. It will be a milestone for a young man who has battled leukemia with class and elegance. His brothers Brendan and Liam hope to be there too. And even his dog Jetson, will probably be doing laps to celebrate. I texted former Giants coach Tom Coughlin to tell him about Sean. Knowing that Sean is a huge Giants fan, Tom immediately called Sean to support him in his fight.
Sean’s wide smile after that conversation confirmed that Coughlin’s message got through.
They told me two-year-old Addison can light up the whole room with her infectious smile. They were right. I watched her parents, Kristy and Frank, beam with pride when she played with her brothers, Gavin and Frankie. Addison faces a tough fight as she deals with Down Syndrome, while battling leukemia and diabetes. That seems like an unfair challenge, but we all believe in this darling little girl who is more courageous than any athlete I have ever met. How unselfish is her family? They have helped doctors learn about Addison’s conditions by entering a multitude of clinical trials, which have been established to help others.
Hayden was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, the same aggressive cancer that Mark Herzlich of the Giants was diagnosed with in 2009. I texted Mark, who quickly called Hayden and his parents, Amy and Steve. He told them that he’s been cancer-free since 2011. He told Hayden how much respect he has for him and that he remains firmly in his corner.
The interviews I did for this Tackle Kids Cancer campaign were exhausting to say the least. They were emotionally draining. There was heartache and heartbreak everywhere. But those interviews and those visits so inspired me, as I saw firsthand the strength and nobility of these kids and their families.
Yes, I learned about pediatric cancer and the struggles that families face. Yes, I learned about the great work Tackle Kids Cancer does in our neighborhoods. But I also learned about the value of family and the importance of appreciating life. Most importantly, I made friends with four amazing kids – friendships I will cherish forever.