April 6, 2015

NFL Players Visit Cancer Patients, Bring Smiles

Clinton McDonald (left), Demetrius Harris (center) and Michael Johnson (right) visited the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute on April 3.
Clinton McDonald with Henry Brockway.
Michael Johnson poses for a selfie with Loretha Burman.

April 6, 2015 | Gala Pond admits she was feeling down when she arrived at UAMS for her chemotherapy treatment April 3.


However, her feelings quickly turned to excitement when she found out her clinic was expecting three special visitors that day — NFL players Clinton McDonald, Michael Johnson and Demetrius Harris.


“I love football, so I knew I wanted to meet all of them,” she said. “I think it’s inspiring for them to take the time to visit people they don’t know and offer them hope.”


This is the second year McDonald, defensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has visited patients undergoing chemotherapy at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. This time he was joined by Michael Johnson, defensive end for the Cincinnati Bengals, and Demetrius Harris, tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs. McDonald and Harris are natives of Jacksonville.


The players spent the afternoon meeting patients, taking photos and signing autographs in the Cancer Institute’s two infusion clinics.


“A lot of cancer patients are away from home and don’t have their family with them. We’re just trying to brighten their day and make a small impact. God has given us so much, and we just want to give some back,” McDonald said.


Pond’s mother, Nancy Burleson, was thrilled her daughter got such a special treat while facing treatment for breast cancer. “Gala should have been a sportscaster. She can tell you all about the players and the stats. I feel so blessed for her to get this experience. It was just great,” Burleson said.


Other patients echoed their excitement for the players’ surprise visit. Henry Brockway, who was diagnosed 10 years ago with acute myeloid leukemia, said he immediately recognized all three players as soon as they told him their numbers.


“You don’t always get to see their faces on TV, but once they told me their numbers I knew who they were,” he said. “I’m very impressed they would take the time to come here. I don’t know if they realize just how much it means.”


While in Arkansas, McDonald hosted the third annual Arkansas “Iron Sharpen Iron” Youth Cheer and Football Camp at Jacksonville High School for athletes ages 6-17. Johnson and Harris assisted with the camp, which is conducted by McDonald’s nonprofit foundation McDonald Association Collective Collaboration – Light Into Darkness (MACC-LID).


To view more photos of the players’ visit, go to facebook.com/uamscancerinstitute.