Posted on: August 15, 2008 3:58 am
Edited on: August 15, 2008 4:01 am

If You Could Have One Wish, What Would It Be?

It's a classic question, you're walking along a beach and find a bottle with a genie in it. As you pick it up and before you rub it, you start thinking of all the things you can get from it. Unlimited wealth, living forever, a harem of beautiful women for your pleasure. Excited, you begin to rub and the jinn appears, offering you a reward for setting him free from his bottle. That reward is not three, but just one wish, but he cautions you before you wish for unlimited numbers of wishes, that there are conditions. You have one wish, but cannot wish for more wishes or unlimited wealth. You have one wish, what will that wish be?

I've pondered this question from time to time, thinking about what I would wish for. Like many, a million things come to mind. Of course the genie didn't say I couldn't wish for a specific amount of money, so I could wish for 35 million dollars or to be the owner of the winning Powerball ticket. But would I wish for this? Maybe, if it happened on the day I was writing out checks to pay bills, but probably not. I could ask for what I ask for every morning, that I didn't have to go to work, but then I figured, the Jinn would probably age me to 72 so that I would be of age to retire, that would be my luck after all. I could wish for that grass hut on a beach in the Caribbean, but the chances would be I'd be placed there right before a category five hurricane goes through. Of course, I could wish for health and happiness of my family, but that would more then likely be a fleeting wish, since it would be transient.

I could also wish, like this morning, not to be plagued with nightmares or the ability to sleep past 3 or 4 am. Of course, I could wish to take in a Steelers game once in my life or to meet my favorite athlete (of course, I already had the pleasure of having this one granted). However, each time I think of this, what my one wish would be, I always come back to the same answer.

In our closet, four jerseys hang. Two are mine, a Jerome Bettis jersey and a white, number 7, Ben Roethlisberger jersey. The 36 jersey will hang there forever, not to be worn again. The other two belong to my husband. One is a Colt's blue, number 18 jersey and the other, a teal and white number 13 jersey with the name Marino on the back. My wish hinges on one of these jerseys. I look at the 36 jersey and think how nice it would be to have it autographed and placed in a frame, along with a picture I have of a younger me, with a younger Jerome Bettis. Yet, my eyes go back to the teal jersey and I think, this would be my wish, to have Dan Marino sign it, so I can have it framed for my husband. Simple wish, maybe, unless you realize what something like this would mean to my husband.

Brian Burghduf had a simple wish, to talk to Peyton Manning, and with the help of "Life is Precious" in St. Joseph, Michigan and Peyton Manning himself, was able to have his wish fulfilled. According to IndyStar.com, Manning had called Burghduf on July 24th and spent ten minutes talking, not only to him, but to two of Burghduf's sons also. A simple gesture for a simple wish, which left a lifetime of memories.

"Brian was so thrilled. My sons mean the world to me and my husband and for Peyton to take time to make my husband's day and my kids' day, knowing what was coming, we'll always have that memory. It was just an awesome memory to have and that's what my husband would want.'' stated Sherri Burghduf, Brian's wife.

Brian would succumbed to his battle with leukemia on July 29, 2008.

Often, we've seen where teams and sports figures participate in fulfilling the wishes of individuals who are either terminally ill or facing life-threatening illnesses through programs like "Life is Precious" and he "Make A Wish" Foundation. Often times, these wishes are something we take for granted, a phone call, the opportunity to attend a day with a sports team, or, as in the first wish of the Make A Wish Foundation, the opportunity to become a police officer.

Foundations like these succeed because of the efforts of volunteers, charitable donations and the genuine desire to create memories for those who are facing the toughest battle of their very lives.

So if you had one wish, what would that be?

Note: If anyone has a link or contact information to the Life is Precious program, it would be appreciated.
Posted on: April 9, 2008 6:36 am
Edited on: April 9, 2008 6:40 am

People Who Care - The Race for the Cure

In this weeks series of “People Who Care” blogs, I’ve noted where an individuals personal struggle against a disease had led them to reach out and give back to their communities to fight these diseases.  Indeed, we could question if OJ Brigance hadn’t been diagnosed with ALS and Magic Johnson hadn’t been infected with HIV, would there have been foundations created to help find a cure and/or educate individuals on these diseases.

Often times when we volunteer or make a contribution to something, it’s usually because we either A) believe in the cause or B) have either been personally affected or know someone who has affected by the cause. 

I am looking forward to this September.  It will be the first time that I will be fit enough to participate in the SC’s First Ladies Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.  I will be wearing the pink shirt in memory of Betty Monica Jarvis Edwards,  my aunt, who died from Breast Cancer in 1983. 

It’s not difficult to find someone who has been touched by this disease, either with our own diagnosis of it, having a family member or friend who is battling it, or knowing someone who has a friend or family member with Breast Cancer.  In fact, if you’re a regular on this board, our own AV has come out about her own battle with the disease.

It’s a disease where the treatment is just as devastating to the body as the disease is.  Often treatment includes surgery, which could result in a lumpectomy at the very least and a radical mastectomy, at it’s worse, leaving the body disfigured.  The other treatment, a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy often leaves those fighting the disease, sick and weak afterwards.  It can deplete and destroy the blood cells that the body uses to fight off viruses and infections, leaving the immune system vulnerable.

In 2008, it is estimated that 182,460 new cases will be diagnosed.  That 40,480 women will not survive it.  Than 1,990 men will have been found to have male breast cancer and 450 men will die from it.  Despite the numbers, the prognosis is still better then it once was.  Early detection and treatment has been beneficial in reducing the mortality rate in white women from 32 per 10,000 in 1975 to 24 per 10,000 in 2004.  Unfortunately, this cannot be said for African-American women where the mortality rate went from 30 to 10,000 in 1975 to 32 per 10,000 in 2004.  The increase is thought to be lack of health insurance or affordable medical care that would prevent these women from seeking attention early.

I’m one who is diligent in monthly self-breast exams and annual mammograms.  Although I knew I needed to do this, I didn’t take much time to learn about Breast Cancer.  That changed the morning I found a lump while in the shower.  I can honestly say that period of time had put my mind in a very dark place.  It took two weeks for me to get in to see a doctor and have the mammogram.  Although I struggled to stay up beat and calm, had prepared myself for the lump I’d thought they’d found.  What I wasn’t expecting was the lump they actually found that I didn’t know was there.  It was a silently terrifying day for me.  I knew they found something after they said they needed a second set.  Then they showed it to me on the film.  Thankfully my husband was with me and it seemed all slow motion and incoherent as they explained about the next step being a biopsy.  I was lucky that day and didn’t have to wait for a scheduled biopsy.  The doctor who was at the Breast Care Center had one open slot that morning and performed the biopsy then.  I did have to wait until the next Tuesday for the pathology results. 

I was lucky, it was a cyst and not cancer.  Next time I may not be though, so I will walk.  I’ll walk because I’m female and at risk.  I’ll walk because I had taken birth control pills and am at risk.  I’ll walk because I’m older and am at risk.  I’ll walk because I’ve drank alcohol, have been overweight and inactive.  I’ll walk because my grandfather had prostate cancer and I’m at risk.  I’ll walk because one day I could be fighting the disease.  I’ll walk for my daughter, my sisters, my mother, my cousins, my grandmother, my friends and acquaintances.  I’ll walk for your mother, your daughters and wives, your friends and acquaintances, for every woman that you and I know or don’t know. 

Thankfully, there will be a lot of other men and women walking with me.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Next week:  Three Walter Payton Man of the Year Nominees and an organization of olympic proportion.

Posted on: April 9, 2008 4:42 am

People Who Care - Mel Blount

In a time when we debate the humanity of the US Justice systems death penalty, or the cruelity to animals, how often we seem to overlook those at the most risk.  When we gripe about the youth of today, or gang violence, we often turn a blind eye to those who are neglected and abused.  Why is it, we only seem to focus on the effect and not the cause?  One man, however, hasn't turned a blind eye and has reached out to young boys who have been neglected and abused and has worked at helping them turn their lives around.

Mel Blount first became loved as a hard hitting cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers during their four Superbowl ring era.  In his career with the NFL, he has recorded  57 interceptions for 736 yards and two touchdowns.  He had since went on to become a member of the Professional Football Hall of Fame, the Pittsburgh Steelers 75th Anniversary team and the NFL 75th Anniversary team.  Perhaps, though, his greatest accomplishment is not what he has done on the field, but what he has done off the field.

It was in 1983 that Blount decided to open his first boys youth home in Vidalia, GA, where he grew up.  He would open up another home in Claysville PA in 1989.  The Mel Blount Youth Homes provide a safe haven for boys from 7-17 who have experienced neglect or abuse.  The home has housed up to as many as 24 boys who not only receive nurturing, but also education and guidance to help them grow to be responsible adults.  The home not only provides emergency shelter but also long-term living arrangements, as well as utilize both staff and community resources to provide counseling and needed therapy, in an environment that allows the boys to be able to enjoy their childhood. 

Blount's concern for the youth of today is not only reflected in the Mel Blount Youth Home's but also with his work and awards with other community programs that reach out to youth.  In a day when we believe compassion to be gone, Blount gives a ray of hope to boys who otherwise may not have any.

A sad fact about child abuse.  In 2002, there were almost one million reports of child abuse and/or neglect made in the USA.  In 2006, over 1300 children died as the result of neglect or abuse.  (1)

Mel Blount Youth Homes



(1) Child Welfare League National Data Analysis System



Posted on: April 9, 2008 3:44 am

People Who Care - Magic Johnson

It began as a stigma.  When it first came out, that it existed, it was a disease that wasn’t supposed to touch those of us who were “good”.  Heterosexuals weren’t supposed to contract it.  As long as we didn’t shoot up, we were safe.  Then things changed.  We found out more about the disease.  We heard about the deaths of Ariel and Elizabeth Glaser, and the world watched the plight and the final battle of a young boy named Ryan White. 

We knew how to contract it.  Through the blood, through certain body fluid.  We learned that we could prevent it by taking the proper precautions.  Practicing safe sex was one of them.  The proper handling of blood and blood by-products, wearing protective gloves while treating a bleeding person.  Some listened and others didn’t. 

Then an NBA superstar came out to the world that he had been diagnosed as having HIV.  In 1991, Magic Johnson, then with the LA Lakers, had announced that he had been infected with HIV and would retire from basketball.  He would return that year for the NBA All-Star game despite the skepticism and criticism that he may infect others should he got hurt.  Those speculations were laid to rest during that game.  Johnson would become a part of the US Olympic “Dream Team” and stay with the NBA and the Lakers as either a player or coach until his second retirement in 1996.

When Johnson found out that he was HIV positive, he created the Magic Johnson Foundation, which at first was setup to provide education on HIV/AIDs prevention, has since expanded to continue the education and prevention of the disease, as well as provide community grants, scholarship programs which focuses to keep the underprivileged  (homeless, unexpected children, those with severe health conditions) in school.   Community programs that reaches out to help those, not only infected but affected by the disease, to include a children’s Mardi Gras fair, job fairs and toy drives.  It’s also partnered itself with community health centers to bring better care to those infected, who otherwise couldn’t afford it.

Magic Johnson could have sat back and felt sorry for himself, instead, he took the initiative to create something that not only empowered him to become an activist against the disease, but to also educate others and provide the community resources to do so.

The Magic Johnson Foundation

CDC HIV/AIDS Information



Posted on: April 8, 2008 7:22 pm
Edited on: April 8, 2008 7:46 pm

People Who Care - OJ Brigance - Baltimore Ravens

There is no cure for it, no treatment.  The only thing doctors can hope for right now is slowing the progression of the disease using a specific drug.  In it’s advance stages, the brain stops sending messages to the voluntary muscles.  In the end, it could lead to complications in breathing and causing the breathing to cease. 

The disease is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is a typically fatal disease.  It is this disease that O.J. Brigance, is working to help researchers find a cure for.  It is this disease the Brigance has been diagnosed with. 

Having spent 7 years as a linebacker, OJ Brigance has played with the Miami Dolphins, St. Louis Rams, New England Patriots and during 2000, was with the Baltimore Ravens, where he currently works now as Director of Player Development. 

In his fight with ALS, he has created the Brigance Brigade Fund, a foundation that fundraises for the battle against ALS.  He is an ambassador for the John Hopkins University Packards Center, and Honorary Chairman for the Packard Center 5K and Fun Run, which will occur on May 3d.   

What is ALS:  ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually lead to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed. (1)

Early symptoms may include weakness or cramping in the hands, feet and limbs; twitching in the muscles, thick speech or difficulty in swallowing.  Advanced symptoms can include difficulty in breathing.  ALS doesn’t manifest itself the same way in everyone, nor does it effect everyone the same way.  Although the average survival time for those diagnosed is three to five years, many people live beyond that.  In some instances, ALS has shown to remit or halt the progression. 

It wasn’t just his ALS that made Brigance a person who cares.  While with the NFL, he had worked with Habitats for Humanity, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Daily Food Bank.  His works in the community had lead to him being honored with the NFLPA’s Unsung Hero award in 1999. 

OJ Brigance definitely is someone who cares.

For more information:

Brigance Brigade

 Packards Center Fiesta 5K and Fun Run

 The ALS Association

(1) What is ALS, from the ALS Association Website.


Posted on: April 2, 2008 6:21 am

People Who Care

It’s a character issue.  Professional athletes especially in the NFL, are nothing more then a bunch of thugs.  I’ve heard this characterization, I’m sure you have also.  Perhaps it’s easy to believe this, given the headlines concerning Kobe Bryant, Mike Tyson, Tank Williams, Cedric Wilson, Adam “Pacman” Jones and more.  Of course, this is nothing new.  We remember the drug issues with the Dallas Cowboys of the 90’s and the legal problems with the Cincinnati Bengals players.  It’s not uncommon to see a bench clearing brawl in the MLB and NHL.  The NBA isn’t immune from it either, after all, how many times was the brawl during Pacer-Pistons game replayed on ESPN and other sports shows?

Then of course, we have the South Carolina doctor who was arrested for giving athletes performance enhancement drugs, there’s the Mitchell Report and the infamous “spygate”.  Okay, maybe spygate doesn’t need to be there, but it left questions to character.  Even team cheerleaders aren’t exempt from it, given the incident in Florida by a few Panthers cheerleaders a few years ago. 

Okay, let’s admit it.  We love the sensationalism that these stories bring.  Come on, how many slow down to get a glimpse of the nasty accident on the side of the road?  Why did the slow speed car chase with O.J. Simpson make national news?  Why was it replayed and reported on, over and over again.  The media knows what brings in viewers and readers.  They feed our desire for that “dirty laundry”.  Let’s face it, all you have to do is look at the boards on Sportsline and see that some of the most popular threads are the ones that point out the human error. 

I’m not saying we don’t follow the feel good stories.  The relief effort and the volunteerism by numerous sports figures to those affected by Katrina.  Watching the amazing progress that Kevin Everett of the Buffalo Bills has made since his injury.  We pulled for the Saints to have, at least a good year, during their displacement after Katrina.  Nothing new, Lou Gehrig won peoples heart when he disclosed he had ALS. 

Yet, even these feel good stories tend to get pushed back into the recesses of our memories, or just dumped from it, because soon another story, another incident comes around and we’re eating up these misdeeds, twisting and turning them until we’ve worn them out, then just wait for the next one to come up.  And as we’re feeding on them, we ask ourselves the stupid question of what happened to integrity?  The thing is, that integrity is still out there and is more the rule then the exception.  Yet we focus on the ill-begotten and miss the what goes on every day, outside of the spotlight. 

I had often heard that there aren’t people like Roberto Clemente and Walter Peyton around anymore.  People who care about others, who don’t have the “me me me” attitude.  Interestingly enough, there are more individuals who are like that.  Jason Taylor of the Miami Dolphin’s is one of them.  He’s this years recipient of the Walter Peyton Man of the Year Award.  Actually, the exception in professional sports is the thug like mentality and the rule are individuals who give back to their communities.  And the sports “franchises” encourage this.  Why else would the NFL present the Walter Peyton Man of the Year Award or the MLB give out the Roberto Clemente Man of the Year Award?  Yet it’s often just a small blurb in the news, perhaps buried somewhere on the back of a sports page that gets overlooked, more often in the community section.  It’s only news when there’s an award attached to it.  It doesn’t get much play time, unless, like after Katrina, there’s a national effort.

So why does it matter, why write about it?  Well, it matters to me, after all, I’m not only a big one for activism, but also volunteerism.  I guess where there’s a call or a need to help, I’m there.  I quit counting how many March of Dimes walkathons I’ve been on.  I’ve been a girl scout volunteer, not only as a troop leader but also cookie mom (don’t ask me how I got conned into that one) and recruiter for the girl scouts.  I was at one time a certified Red Cross CPR instructor, then there’s the times I’ve acted as a “hugger” (had to be a hugger, nothing less would do) for the Special Olympics events.  The weekend time at the orphanage in Korea, fundraising coordinator for the United Way, blood drive coordinator, organized a few Toys for Tots events, a toy drive for Katrina victims, and the list goes on.  Oh and now that I’m in shape, will be walking in the local Walk for the Cure for Breast Cancer. 

There’s little recognition that goes with volunteerism, and we do it, not for the recognition but for the ability to help others and how it makes us feel.  So since it’s not done for recognition, why write about it?  Perhaps to offset the negativity that is so often seen in the national media.  Perhaps to remind us that integrity in sports on the field and off the field still exists.  For this reason, I’ll be featuring a Wednesday blog extolling the virtues of past and present sports personalities and their charitable works and volunteerism.  It deserves to come off the back pages, it deserves to be recognized.  It’s not something new.  The Fedex Air and Ground Awards gives contributions to the players favorite charities, as does other awards in sports.  Of course, I am not in a financial position to give out large (or even small) checks to every charity or cause, but I am in the position to give my thank you to these individuals (even if they don’t read them).  This is my thank you to them.

Next Week:  A former Baltimore Raven and current Raven front office person and his struggles with ALS,  a former Pittsburgh Steeler and his haven for abused and neglected boys,  A former LA Laker and his efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.

Posted on: January 31, 2008 1:02 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2008 1:03 pm

Remembering Sweetness

It will be the biggest day of the NFL year, something that football fans look towards every year.  The final destination of the last two teams surviving.  The battle of the Titans of each conference in football.  Already the media has converged on Arizona as the teams arrived to practice.  A somewhat circus atmosphere has developed with the festivities, with media day, fan day, wheaties day, etc...

Already we're seeing advertisers jockeying for the best spots during the Superbowl.  KFC has already promised a check to a players or performers charity, should they do the chicken dance during the game.    Through the week, we've seen the interviews, the analysis and the side stories that accompany the teams and players involved in the game.  We, as fans, have sat an predicted, who was going to win.  What player would be named MVP.  What Tom Petty was going to sing during the half-time show.  Amidst all the hype and storylines that have been fed to fans by the NFL, teams and media, another process is taking place quietly behind the scenes. 

On February 3d, 2008, not only will we have the final winner of Superbowl XLII, but we will also find out the recipient of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.  Once known as the NFL Man of the Year Award, which recognized and honored, not only a players performance on the field, but also what they gave back to their communities.  Walter Payton, himself, received the NFL Man of Year Award in 1977.  It was after his death in 1999, that the NFL chose to honor the Bears running back and changed the name of the award to the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Four players have received nominations for this award this year.  Hines Ward of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jason Taylor from the Miami Dolphins, Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys and Brian Waters from the Kansas City Chiefs.  Each of these individuals not only have a stellar career, but have given their energy and their backing to projects that reach out to the community or causes they feel strongly about, much like Payton did during and after his career in the NFL. 

As I await the announcement of this recipient of this award, as eagerly as I await the outcome of the game on Sunday, how can I not reflect on the career and life of "Sweetness".  Though I was never much of a Bears fan, I do remember in those games that I've watched, when Payton started his dance, I found myself whispering "run, Sweetness, run".  Many a runningback who has entered the league within the past few years, have sited that Payton was his inspiration.  Indeed, no one could argue how great a running back Walter Payton was. Yet, Sweetness was so much more.  The work he did with underpriviledge and abused children in the state of Illinois.  How he made his battle with a rare liver cancer public to show the dire need for organ donors.  How we saw the pride and love of father and son for each other when he was introduced to the Hall of Fame.  The love of a wife, as she continues to support the causes of her late husband through the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation. 

In a profession where greatness comes and goes, where players and plays become memories and stories of legends, one player is forever immortalized, not just on game field, but to all of us who remember and who will come after and learn of him.  It is fitting that the NFL continue to honor Sweetness's memory and to pay tribute to those who continue on as an inspiration to future players and fans in their works on and off the field.


Walter Payton Man of the Year Nominatees:  http://www.jointheteam.com/press/pr

Walter and Connie Payton Foundation:  http://www.payton34.com/

Walter Payton Liver Center:  http://www.walterpaytonlivercenter.

Past Walter Payton Man of the Year/NFL Man of the Year Recipients:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter

Join the Team: Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award:  http://www.jointheteam.com/programs



The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com