DeAngelo Williams could run over the opposition, stiff-arm a defender and keep trucking toward the end zone. But the star running back could not stop cancer from stealing the lives of the women he loved.
The former Pittsburgh Steeler and Carolina Panther who was a standout at the University of Memphis watched his mom Sandra Hill put up a good fight against breast cancer. Sadly, she lost that battle when she was just 53 years old.
Four of his aunts had already succumbed to breast cancer, passing away before the age of 50.
Knowing that he couldn’t do anything more than hold his mom’s hand, accompany her to appointments and cheer for her, he decided to try and help other women in his mom’s honor.
So in 2014, when his mother’s death was still a painful memory, Williams paid for the cost of mammogram screenings for 53 women through a nonprofit organization he had created, The DeAngelo Williams Foundation. He called his mission “53 Strong for Sandra.” His mom and all of his aunts were carriers of the BRCA1 gene.
The foundation coordinates events where the women undergo a breast cancer screening. In addition to the screening events, the foundation also covers the cost of follow-up appointments and treatments when needed and when cancer is discovered.
Williams hopes to host a free mammogram screening event in every state eventually. In the meantime, the foundation has covered the cost of more than 500 mammograms at hospitals located in Pittsburgh, Penn.; Memphis, Tenn.; Jonesboro, Ark.; and Charlotte, N.C.
“To be able to help all these women is amazing. This can be life-changing for these women. We are enabling them to get this care that no one should ever be denied or not have access to.”
Aside from his mom, Williams’ biggest fan happens to be his wife Risalyn Williams. She serves as executive director of The DeAngelo Williams Foundation and loves what her caring, compassionate husband has been doing to help others.
“DeAngelo wants to ensure that no woman (or man) fights breast cancer alone.”
In honor of his mom, his aunts and others who have fought cancer, Williams pushed to allow NFL players to wear pink cleats during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October 10 years ago.
The NFL also has gotten on board by forming a partnership with the American Cancer Society to focus on preventing and detecting several cancers, including breast cancer, with the “Crucial Catch” program.
Many fans commented on the foundation’s Facebook page about how wonderful Williams’ work is and how he continues to push for breast cancer awareness in honor of his mom and aunts. Heather LaPointe told him to “Keep up the great work!”
“Your mom and aunts have a lot to be proud of the man and leader you’ve become.”
Leigh Beth Ammons described Williams as “true and genuine.”
“He has helped so many women with mammograms and done so much for Breast Cancer Awareness! I love him. My mother is three years out from Metastatic Triple Negative Breast Cancer. She loves him. She’s from Wynne and also went to Memphis State and we do the Race a For the Cure in Memphis. Thank you DeAngelo for everything!”
Donna Fantone Milligan shared that her friend didn’t have health insurance and by the time she could afford a mammogram, she already had breast cancer.
“Four years went by and she couldn’t afford insurance. She finally landed a great job with insurance. The first thing she did was get a mammogram and received the bad news. By you doing what you do, some women won’t have to wait like my friend. God Bless.”
Many professional athletes have foundations and causes they support that are close to their hearts like Williams, but the support women have shown to him for everything he’s doing has been wonderful. Kuddos to Williams for everything he continues to do to help keep women (and men) healthy.
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