The opportunity and adrenaline rush of performing in front of 80,000 cheering pro football fans is unfathomable to us so when we heard Tony Gonzalez, the great pro bowl tight end, say that helping sick kids made him feel better than scoring a touchdown, it was quite eye opening.
It's hard to believe that a great athlete like Gonzalez' was once scared and bullied as a child. He says that after reading a book of Vince Lombardi quotes, things started to change.
Gonzalez became a pillar, both on and off the field. His foundation has helped numerous kids in the hospital cope with cancer, heart defects and other conditions they're fighting. While teaching them to be tough, Gonzalez also brings a smile to their faces by passing out little dolls called shadow buddies to let them know they're not alone.
Last week, another story about people reaching out to help a sick child boosted our faith in humanity. Tyler Seddon, now battling leukemia, has always been fascinated by policemen, firefighters, and first responders. For Tyler's 7th birthday, his mother asked the hometown police department in Burrillville, Rhode Island, to send him a signed card. That wish was posted on Facebook and after going viral, the family received thousands of cards, videos and packages from departments as far away as Switzerland and Italy.
The outpouring from his hometown was even more amazing. Tyler received his own police uniform and was named an honorary police chief, district attorney and fire marshal for the day.
The response from outside the town was also incredible. A convoy of first responders formed from places across the Northeast for a trip to Rhode Island.
When Philadelphia police officers Michael Levin and Raymond Esquilin heard about a caravan of cops traveling to surprise Tyler, they made the 540-mile round-trip to join police from dozens of other departments. Their police cruiser was filled with hundreds of gifts for Tyler that were donated from fellow officers, including embroidered police jackets, shirts and even a flight suit from an aviation unit.
Levin said they were impressed that in today's day and age, when most role models are celebrities, Tyler's heroes are the police officers and first responders. After a parade in Burrillville, the 1,000 responders filled a huge banquet hall, sang "Happy Birthday," then each greeted Tyler personally.
"He looks up to us, but he's our hero," one police sergeant stated.
That statement best summarized a nice human interest story.
By Jim Zbick