April 1, 2016

NFL Players Brighten Cancer Patients’ Day with Surprise Visit

APRIL 1, 2016 | Hugs, smiles and selfies were in plentiful supply March 31 when five professional football players made a surprise visit to patients at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.

For the third year, Tampa Bay Buccaneer defensive tackle and Jacksonville native Clinton McDonald recruited his fellow players to visit to the Cancer Institute and offer support for patients undergoing cancer treatment.

Cancer Institute Director Peter Emanuel, M.D., with (from left) Michael Johnson of the Cincinnati Bengals, Clinton McDonald of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Demetrius Harris of the Kansas City Chiefs and Lazarius Levingston of the BC Lions.

Cancer Institute Director Peter Emanuel, M.D., with (from left) Michael Johnson of the Cincinnati Bengals, Clinton McDonald of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Demetrius Harris of the Kansas City Chiefs and Lazarius Levingston of the BC Lions.

“We battle on the football field, but when you have cancer, you’re fighting for your life. It’s humbling to meet the patients and hear their stories. We may come to offer them support, but we’re the ones who leave filled the humility and hope,” McDonald said.

Joining him were fellow Buccaneer defensive end William Gholston, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Demetrius Harris, Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, and BC Lions (Canadian Football League) defensive end Lazarius “Pep” Levingston.

“We are always honored to have Clinton and his friends pay a visit to the Cancer Institute. The players are so generous with their time, sitting and talking with our patients at length about their treatment and what’s going on in their lives. It’s a special day for everyone,” said Cancer Institute Director Peter Emanuel, M.D.

Vada Adams, who regularly makes a 90-minute drive from Fordyce for Little Rock for melanoma treatment, echoed Emanuel’s sentiment.

“I’ve had such a good experience at UAMS, but when people like this come along to brighten your day, there’s not enough money in the world to pay for something like that,” Adams said.

William Gholston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visits with melanoma patient Vada Adams and her daughters, Mitizi Garlington and Melanie Robertson.

William Gholston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visits with melanoma patient Vada Adams and her daughters, Mitizi Garlington and Melanie Robertson.

The players stayed about two hours, visiting and taking photos with patients and family members in two infusion

Demetrius Harris of the Kansas City Chiefs visits with a patient at the UAMS Cancer Institute.

Demetrius Harris of the Kansas City Chiefs visits with a patient at the UAMS Cancer Institute.

clinics. Lori Parker noted she could feel the excitement in build when the nurses announced the players would be visiting. “I’ve never seen everyone so perked up in the clinic before,” said Parker, who undergoes weekly infusion treatments for chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy. “Infusion Clinic 1 is such a phenomenal and

supportive environment already, but everyone here is dealing with their own struggles. It changed the whole energy in the room when the players arrived.”

In addition to their visit to UAMS, the players also are participating in McDonald’s annual Family Fun Day and Iron Sharpens Iron Youth Football and Cheer Camp on April 1-2 in his hometown of Jacksonville.