Football Community Helps Abby's Pediatric Cancer
How football tailgating is bringing this community together to help pediatric cancer patients.
For the Johnsons, NFL “Football Sundays” were always associated with friends and family. Friends of David Johnson, his wife Lisa, and his four kids would start arriving around noon. The last would leave as the evening NFL game wound down around 10 p.m.
Now, some members of their football family are coming together to support the Johnson’s daughter Abby, a pediatric cancer survivor, and the organization that bears her name.
In 2015, Abby Johnson, then 5, suffered from headaches that kept getting worse. In January of 2016, an MRI revealed the family’s worst fears were true: Abby had a large, malignant brain tumor, and needed emergency surgery.
The night before Abby’s first day of radiation therapy, there was a knock on the door.
“And about forty of our neighbors were there at our door, and they were all wearing t-shirts that said, ‘Abby’s Army,'” David told. It was an act of kindness to show the Johnsons and Abby that they were loved, thought of, and prayed for.
“It was incredible,” David said.
Abby’s treatment was going well, but even under the best circumstances, cancer treatment can make patients feel ill. In the summer of 2016, Abby, on her first of four rounds of chemo, was hospitalized for two weeks.
The Johnsons learned hospital life can be boring, especially for children.
David and Lisa thought back to that night months before, when their neighbors made such a strong statement of love and support. The coupled founded Abby’s Army as a 501c(3) nonprofit organization, to assist pediatric cancer patients and their families. Abby’s Army provides toys, games and books for children being treated at Duke University Hospital.
Abby is cancer-free now, and her dad says she’s doing great in third grade. With their daughter’s health much improved, Lisa is now focusing her professional efforts on Abby’s Army full time. Their goal is to expand into more hospitals as their organization grows.
But to grow, they need money. This year, a lot of that financial support is coming from another community where David is active: The Extreme Skins tailgating group.
The Extreme Skins are fans who meet before every home game in the Washington, D.C. area to share food, drinks and friendship. Each year, the group chooses one charity to support.
David wondered, why not Abby’s Army?
So he asked Christie Lopez, one of the informal leaders of Extreme Skins, what she thought.
Lopez has a long history of charitable contributions, including work with Pro Football’s Ultimate Fan Association, a membership group of football fans around the country who are focused on both fandom and raising money for charity.
Lopez heard the Johnsons’ story, met Abby, and was hooked.
“How could you meet this family, this little girl, and not want to help?” she asked.
They kicked off their efforts by posting donation buckets at the Extreme Skins tailgating area before every home game this 2018 season, and they have high hopes for raising thousands of dollars from the group’s hundreds of members.
In the first week alone, the Extreme Skins raised $2,500 for Abby’s Army. Donations are expected to grow throughout the season.
“We just wanted to pay it forward,” David noted, referring to the support he’s received from his neighbors, the Extreme Skins, and many other members of their community who have been touched by Abby’s story.
Sleep Number is the Official Sleep + Wellness Partner of the NFL. Whether you’re an elite athlete or an everyday all-star, sleep is a vital component to help you recover and perform physically and mentally. The Sleep Number 360®smart bed with SleepIQ® technology inside senses your movements and automatically adjusts to keep you sleeping comfortably. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep.