Wai Sallas reflects on what we can be thankful for.
It’s hard to look at the world today and not have some sort of negative reaction-either based on your beliefs or based on the current coverage broadcasted on almost every network. Despite what you might see, hear or think, it’s Thanksgiving, and if anything we can all use this time to gain some perspective and realize there is still good in this world…and for that I’m grateful.
In the sporting world, a black cloud has followed the NFL since July when Ray Rice was suspended two games for knocking his then-fiancée unconscious. Story after story has left us gasping for positivity in a league mired in darkness. Anger still rages for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice, but there’s more to the NFL than that. There are plenty of players, coaches and fans providing levity to a league that so desperately needs a break. You may just have to change your perspective to see it.
I’m thankful for Bruce Arians. His Arizona Cardinals have the best record in football, and yet he remembers what’s most important.
He helps husbands remember to keep balance in their life between work and home, which on its own is a valuable piece to retain. That, however, isn’t the only helping hand Arians is providing.
In 2013, Arians and his wife, Christine started the Arians Family Foundation. According to the foundation website, AFF “embodies the vision of a better future for children to live in where they feel safe and loved.” For 20 years, Christine worked for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) helping ensure children who are involved in the court system, as a result of abuse or neglect by their families, receive the help they need. The Arians Family Foundation is just continuing that message on a much larger scale.
This year, Arians has combined winning, style, and philanthropy to form an unbeatable team. The Cardinals have started to sell Arians’ trademark hat with proceeds going to his charity. The look has become so popular it has created a trending topic on social media, #Brucing.
I’m thankful for Devon and Leah Still.
During the NFL preseason, Still told the Bengals his mind wasn’t 100% on football. Who could blame him? In June, Devon’s daughter Leah was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma cancer and given a 50-50 chance of living. The Bengals cut Still but brought him back to the practice squad, a 10-person team helping prepare the active roster for Sundays, but never dresses with them. With Still on the practice squad he could still receive NFL benefits, including health insurance to help his ailing daughter.
The Bengals didn’t stop there.
Cincinnati began selling Still’s jersey in September with all proceeds going to her fight and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. At the end of the team’s fundraiser in October, the Bengals announced more than $1.25 million was raised.
I’m thankful for this.
I’m thankful for the bond that fighting cancer has forged with the Stills and Lauren Hill.
The connection cancer patients share is nothing new to Del Reid. Reid is the co-founder of Bills Mafia, a social media tour-de-force that is arguably the largest fan site supporting the Buffalo Bills. An encounter with Scott Lunn, changed the direction of where this site would take him and the Bills fan base.
“His daughter had this condition called Retinoblastoma,” said Reid. “His daughter is 2 years old and he’s telling me ‘yeah, she just had her one eye removed and her second eye is receiving chemotherapy treatments’ and I said oh my gosh, this is awful, and I’m reading this email right before I got into work and I’m in the car crying.”
Reid, full of emotion, decided to use the power of the Bills fan base, or FAMbase, as Reid refers to them, to create a movement helping those in need, starting with Scott’s daughter, Amber. Since that fateful October day, 26 Shirts has created a t-shirt every other week donating $8 of every t-shirt sold to a family in need. This past October ended 26 Shirts’ first year, with more than $54,000 raised.
“The reason this has been successful is not because people like to buy stuff on the Bills, the Western New York area and Western New York family wants to help other people. That’s [the] fabric of Western New York’s DNA that translates from the love we have for our team.”
“Look at our helmet, you have a visual representation of the city on it. There’s so much civic pride wrapped up in the team’s identity, visual identity, it’s inseparable.”
According to its website, 26 Shirts sells a different limited edition, player endorsed, “Buffalo Sports” themed t-shirt every two weeks. After a shirt’s two-week run is over, the design is retired and never sold again. Since Reid started in October 2013, the moment that still defines 26 Shirts is one simplistically special.
“A local magazine did a feature on us in September, they interviewed some of the people we helped, and one lady said ‘Del is a member of our family.’ Her son had brain cancer. To have her say Del is a member of our family, it lets you know the affect something as stupid as a t-shirt can have on someone’s life.”
Reid and Bills Mafia have no intentions of slowing down. 26 Shirts continues to grow with each shirt selling more than the one before and 26 Shirts Chicago will be helping those in need in the Windy City very soon. The growth of the Bills Mafia and its philanthropic efforts follows the lead of its founder, who has a unique way of living his life.
“I only get one shot [at today], and I have to make the most of it. I think people have more time than they realize. I push my limits every day because I know I won’t get that day back.
“I have two kids and hopefully they think this is normal. What I do is normal. When we go to bed, we pray. We pray for the people we helped in the past, pray for the people we help now, and we pray for the people we’ll help in the future. I don’t want my kids to be takers; I don’t want them to be consumers. I want them to be givers.”
I am thankful for the givers out there, including Del Reid and 26 Shirts.
The NFL is full of stories like these, those who play, coach and cheer. We can spend our days looking at those who cast a shadow on the game we love or we can look at the ones who help lift this game and those around it.
It is about perspective.
For me, my perspective was eternally changed last December thanks to my wife, Allison. At ten months pregnant, her intuition told her to check into the hospital, even though she wasn’t feeling or showing any signs of imminent childbirth. Within five minutes of arriving and getting set up on various routine natal monitoring systems, her baby flat lined. She was injected with adrenaline and her yet-to-be-born son resumed a steady heartbeat. Two hours later the horrifying ordeal repeated itself and she was prepped for cesarean delivery. Minutes later Baker Hudson Sallas was delivered with the umbilical cord wrapped so tightly around his neck doctors needed scissors to free him from the noose.
Our family of 2 is now 3 because of her. Thank you Alli for making my life richer every day.
For more information on BA Hats and the Arians Family Foundation: http://www.ariansfamilyfoundation.com
To donate to Children’s Cancer Research Fund: http://www.childrenscancer.org
For more information on 26 Shirts: http://www.26shirts.com
Photo Credit(s): Cover (AP/File); Devon Still (Instagram); 26 Shirts (26 Shirts Website)