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Seahawks, CHI Franciscan & Virginia Mason Team Up To Support Cancer Awareness During NFL's 'Crucial Catch' Campaign

The Seahawks partnered with CHI Franciscan and Virginia Mason to put on a variety of cancer awareness activities throughout the month of October.


Cancer Survivors Honored at Seahawks Crucial Catch Game

Michael and Deborah Hjort looked around CenturyLink Field at the Crucial Catch game against the Los Angeles Rams and blinked their eyes in disbelief, overwhelmed at nearly 70,000 fans cheering for them as they walked onto the field at halftime to be honored.

The couple—both cancer survivors—were part of a group of survivors from Virginia Mason, CHI Franciscan and the American Cancer Society to represent all survivors who've battled cancer and won. Each survivor carried an "I Celebrate" card with the names of those who lost their battle with cancer, are struggling, or have defeated it.

"We were moved to tears, reflecting on our own journey, and hearing the courageous stories of other participants," said Michael Hjort. "All these people know they are lucky—that they had a crucial catch with cancer and are here to tell about it. Many of these people feel they have a responsibility to raise awareness, just as Deborah and I feel."

Deborah held an "I Celebrate" card, with an arrow on the sign pointing to her husband Michael, and he held the same sign, with an arrow pointing to his wife.

"Feeling the crowd offering encouragement on the field and being with other survivors is a memory I will cherish forever," Deborah added.

Tears flowed on the field as local artists Angelina Salem, Dave Swaintek and Kevin Redlich sang and played "Fight Song," belting out the words, "This is my fight song, take back my life song, prove I'm all right song, my power's turned on, starting right now I'll be strong."

Val Schock, a colon cancer survivor from Puyallup, said she is still coming to terms with her cancer, so the walk onto the CenturyLink Field turf was very powerful for her. It was a reaffirmation, and a boost to her determination.

"You sometimes feel you are in this journey alone and then you see all these people honoring you—it's incredibly powerful and moving," Schock said. "It's hard to talk about, but it was a memory I will never forget."

During halftime of the Seattle Seahawks' Week 5 game against the Los Angeles Rams, the team honored cancer survivors and their families on the turf at CenturyLink Field as part of the NFL's Crucial Catch: Intercept Cancer campaign aimed at promoting cancer prevention awareness.

Seahawks Host Crucial Catch Cancer Screening

A few days after the game, Peninsula Community Health held the Crucial Catch Screening Day at two locations in Kitsap County. Free screenings were held for breast, colon and cervical cancers, and people came in at a steady pace to get appointments for screening.

Boom, the Seahawks' mascot who serves as the official sidekick of Blitz, showed support for breast cancer awareness by holding babies, mugging for photos with patients and staff, and standing outside the facility with a pink boa, enticing people to come in and get screened.

"I love the fact that the Seahawks help make this happen," said a staff member beaming at the mascot prancing around. "They are so much more than just a football team."

Bremerton's Mayor Greg Wheeler was very happy to learn the grant funds from the NFL came to Kitsap County.

"This is a great program to help with early detection and we certainly have people who live in our region that could use the help with that," Wheeler said. "My mom passed from brain cancer, and I often wonder if a crucial catch—an early screening of some kind—would have given her more time. Thank you, Seattle Seahawks."

Some preliminary test results have come in from the Crucial Catch screening, and Jennifer Johnson-Joefield, director at Peninsula Community Health, said it looks as though several people will catch cancer early.

"We've already had a lot of positive feedback from patients," Johnson-Joefield said. "What's great about this screening is that we're seeing patients come in after putting off testing, and they're coming in because it looks like fun. It makes a scary situation easier when you have a sweet bird mascot and Sea Gals."

In support of the NFL's Crucial Catch: Intercept Cancer campaign and to build excitement for Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Rams, the Seahawks held a Blue Friday Rally at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle.

Crucial Catch Culminates With Game Ball Delivery From Seahawks Running Back Mike Davis

When Seahawks running back Mike Davis was asked to speak recently at an event to provide sponsors Virginia Mason and CHI Franciscan with the Crucial Catch game ball, he decided to make the moment more impactful by telling the small crowd something he hadn't even told his teammates.

"This is my first time talking about this, talking out loud about it and I'm a little emotional," said a soft-spoken Davis fidgeting with the game ball in his hands. "My dad has prostate cancer—he was recently diagnosed, so the Crucial Catch game was very important to me. I was thinking about my dad the entire game and even scored a touchdown for him."

As the NFL's Crucial Catch: Intercept Cancer program comes to a close for the year, the game ball was preserved to honor Virginia Mason and CHI Franciscan for their efforts with the Seahawks in putting on cancer awareness and prevention activities throughout the month of October. Learning about Davis' father, however, was a surprise.

"I wanted people to know how important early cancer detection is, and with my dad in mind, I thought people would understand," said Davis, whose dad lives in Atlanta, Ga. "He's doing well. He's a tough guy. He didn't want to tell me at first because he didn't want me distracted.

"Now we believe in the power of early screening," he added.

John Pleas, the Seahawks' Managing Director of Sales, Corporate Partnerships, said the month of October—the month all NFL teams host a Crucial Catch game—is very special because the message is so crucial to get in front of fans and the community.

"This is such an important message for our fans, our communities, our teams," Pleas said. "We know that when people have a crucial catch of early cancer detection, they have a stronger defense against the disease. We're proud to be a part of this, along with Virginia Mason and CHI Franciscan—great community partners."

David Schultz, market president for the peninsula region of CHI Franciscan, who was presented with a Crucial Catch game ball, said his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer 13 months ago, and thanks to early screening, the cancer was discovered at an early stage.

"Without early screening, we might have had a different outcome that wasn't as positive," Schultz said.

Kerry Shannon, Virginia Mason senior vice president for strategy and business development, said early screening is so important that it is frequently emphasized for the employees of Virginia Mason.

"We make sure our workforce has the opportunity for early screening," Shannon said. "We're also out in the community all the time with early screening and detection messaging. We know that symptoms of some cancer go unnoticed, so we're grateful for this opportunity to bring more awareness to our communities."

Since 2009, more than $18.5 million has been raised and donated to the American Cancer Society through the Crucial Catch partnership. Funds donated through Crucial Catch support screenable cancers and pay for grants to community health organizations to offer free screening for underserved communities.

As Mike Davis signed hats and cheer towels for those attending the Crucial Catch game ball delivery event, he said he now wears a light blue wristband, for prostate cancer, and is painting his cleats to support prostate cancer for the NFL's upcoming My Cause, My Cleats program.

"It's a shock when you hear one of your parents has cancer," said Davis. "This has brought my family closer together. You can bet that everyone in my family is going to get early screening."

To cap the NFL's Crucial Catch: Intercept Cancer campaign that ran around the league throughout the month of October, Seahawks running back Mike Davis delivered a game ball from Seattle's Crucial Catch game held earlier this month to Virginia Mason and CHI Franciscan, organizations that throughout the month helped the Seahawks put on cancer awareness activities to promote early detection.