Far too often, the public hears and reads about the negative exploits of professional football players with scant attention given to the generous philanthropic endeavors often undertaken by many of these men. These efforts take various forms to include monetary donations, scholarship endowments, charity events, foundations, and time and presence.
Normally, players will gravitate towards causes of personal significance to them. When retired Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason’s son Gunnar was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, Esiason created an enormously successful foundation to fund research focused on finding a cure for the disease. More recently, Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman created his Cornerstone Foundation in 2005 to improve the lives of critically and chronically ill children in the greater Chicago area, a mission that took on even greater importance after his three month old daughter needed and received a heart transplant to save her life in 2008.
After being nominated as a 2012 MS Achiever for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, I had the pleasure of attending a kick-off reception hosted by the program’s co-chairs, Roger Mody and Ryan Kerrigan earlier this week. Mody is the founder and chairman of The Mody Foundation and a partner in Monumental Sports and Entertainment, the group that owns the Washington Capitals, Wizards, and Mystics. Kerrigan is the second year starting linebacker for my beloved Washington Redskins.
When I asked Kerrigan about his underlying motivation for serving as the MS Achievers co-chair, he admitted that he had been asked to serve and simply stepped up to the challenge as a means to give back. To my knowledge, neither Mody nor Kerrigan have a personal connection with MS, but their enthusiasm for this cause was clearly evident in their remarks as well as in brief conversations throughout the evening.
As a woman living with MS, I realize that it is a widely recognized but largely misunderstood chronic illness. I don’t always look “sick” or “disabled,” but not a day goes by that my body does not remind me of the MS. I have been confined to a wheelchair; I have lost vision; and I have experienced unimaginable pain. I recognize it is nearly impossible to understand the uncertainty of living with MS without firsthand knowledge, but it means so much to have people with no connection to the disease working on behalf of efforts integral to my personal well being.
Mody and Kerrigan both serve as major figures in the Washington, DC sports community, and their ability to galvanize their friends and colleagues for their efforts was evident when I turned from one conversation to find myself standing directly in front of Redskins long snapper Nick Sundberg. Sundberg attended the reception to support Kerrigan but is no stranger to the National MS Society himself. He briefly mentioned that he regularly supports a friend’s efforts for a San Diego area Walk MS event.
I support the Washington Redskins and have long appreciated the team’s commitment to philanthropy as well as the efforts of individual players such a London Fletcher, Kedric Golston, Lorenzo Alexander, and several others. However, I never imagined that any Redskins player would make such a commitment related to MS, and for Kerrigan’s efforts and his teammates supporting those efforts, I have an even deeper level of respect and appreciation.
As always, HAIL TO THE REDSKINS!!!