By Mark Eckel, Player Engagement Insider
It’s been 47 years since arguably the greatest coach in NFL history, and whose name is on the trophy presented to the Super Bowl champions, died of colon cancer.
On September 3rd, 1970, Vince Lombardi lost his battle with cancer. A year later, the first annual Vince Lombardi Golf Classic was held in his honor to raise money for cancer awareness.
Now, 47 years and over $19 million later, the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation continues to fight in the coach’s memories.
On Sunday, October 22nd when the Green Bay Packers, who Lombardi coached to five NFL titles in seven years including the first two Super Bowl titles, host the New Orleans Saints it will highlight the Packers vs. Cancer campaign.
“Obviously we’ve all been touched by cancer in some way,’’ current Packers kicker Mason Crosby, the team spokesperson for the campaign said. “Somewhere in our lives we’ve all known someone, be it friend or family who has been touched by cancer.
“My family has been touched many times. last year my 27-year-old sister-in-law was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Through things like [the Lombardi Cancer Foundation] we’re able to raise money and fight this disease, that so many of us have been affected by, and I have this past year.’’
During that game against the Saints, the Packers and their sponsor, Bellin Health Systems, along with the Lombardi Foundation will recognize cancer survivors on the field during the pregame Ambassador Line, the National Anthem and at halftime.
Those in attendance can show support with the “game giveaway banner,’’ which will have a place for fans to write the name of someone they know who has battled cancer.
Fans can also get involved through donations of $10 by texting “Packers’’ to 50555. The team will match all donations up to $10,000. A limited-edition Vince Lombardi cancer awareness hat is available at the Packers Pro Shop and online for $21.95, with $5 from each sale going directly to the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation.
Packers players will also be visiting hospitals, and cancer patients, throughout the area during the month of October and throughout the remainder of the regular season.
“Cancer touches the lives of so many families and individuals in our community and we’ve heard from a lot of people over the years who have battled cancer themselves,” Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said. “We’re proud to show our support by working with Bellin Health and the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation to increase awareness and raise funds for all cancers during the month of October.”
Since its inception with that golf classic in 1971, the Lombardi Cancer Foundation has raised over $19 million and they are not about to stop.
"We're beyond grateful for this amazing partnership with the Green Bay Packers organization and Bellin Health," Ben Haas, the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation President Elect, said. "Vince Lombardi said that 'People who work together will win.’ And together, through Packers vs. Cancer, we will be one step closer to winning the battle against cancer."
George Kerwin, the President and CEO of Bellin Health Systems, a health care service headquartered in Green Bay that serves northeastern Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan, sees first-hand the effects of cancer.
“Day in and day out, our team of cancer care professionals witnesses the devastation this disease can cause for patients and their loved ones,” Kerwin said. “And yet we’ve also seen the incredible power of increased awareness in higher screening rates and a better understanding of steps we can take to reduce the prevalence of cancer-causing risk factors and behaviors. We are proud to team with the Packers and the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation for this incredibly important initiative.”
The Packers are hoping their fans get involved as well.
“We can raise funds and raise awareness to fight this awful disease,’’ Crosby said. “I would love if Packers fans donate, buy the hat, and get involved during our game against the Saints to help us fight this.’’