Family fun night kicks off Bills' Crucial Catch initiatives for cancer awareness - The Buffalo News

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Family fun night kicks off Bills' Crucial Catch initiatives for cancer awareness

Jack Frost III knows the names and numbers of Bills players so well he could spot for the radio broadcasters.

Frost first memorized the roster a few years back when he was in the hospital awaiting a bone marrow transplant. He has diligently kept up with the personnel turnover since.

“The first month he was in the hospital, the Bills came on in a preseason game and my brother and I put the game on in his hospital room,” father Jack Frost Jr. said. “From that day on, he’s been addicted to the Bills. All Bills, all the time.”

The 13-year-old got to test his spotting ability up close with a dozen of his favorite players on Tuesday as the Frosts were one of 50 families from the P.U.N.T. Foundation and Stone’s Buddies invited to the ADPRO Sports Training Center. The event for children battling pediatric cancer was one of several the Bills are conducting this week as part of the NFL’s Crucial Catch initiative to raise awareness for many forms of cancer.

Children engaged in a variety of activities on the Bills’ practice field while interacting with players Lorenzo Alexander, Preston Brown, Dion Dawkins, Patrick DiMarco, Vladimir Ducasse, Reid Ferguson, Stephen Hauschka, Nathan Peterman, Colton Schmidt, Keith Towbridge, Kyle Williams and Eric Wood.

“Eric Wood is my favorite,” Frost said. “We’re buddies.”

Wood has spent time with the Frost family at several events over the years and was excited to catch up with one of his biggest fans on Tuesday.

“It’s an honor,” Wood said. “It’s a lot of fun getting to meet a kid like that and getting to know him. He’s a total joy to be around. He lights up any room he’s in.”

Jack Frost III and his older sister Sydney both have a rare genetic blood disease called Fanconi anemia.

“He’s been through chemo treatments, from A to Z, you name it,” Jack Frost Jr. said. “He’s had broken femurs, he’s had brain surgery, he’s had infections in his lungs, a slew of things. But he’s never had a bad attitude. Always cheerful, bright, just a happy-go-lucky kid.”

Meeting his heroes brightens up Jack’s days even more.

“Not every kid gets the chance to do this,” the father said. “For the guys to take time out of their lives to come and spend time with sick children, it’s tremendous. You can’t ask for anything better than that. Would I trade it all for having a healthy child? Yeah, but we’re dealt the hand we’re dealt.”

This year, the NFL and the American Cancer Society expanded its effort to support the fight against cancer by broadening its October campaign to include early detection and risk-reduction efforts for other forms of the disease, instead of just breast cancer, the focus for over a decade.

“The broader we can be, the more people we can help, the more people we can serve, the better,” Wood said.

DiMarco was proud to be part of Tuesday’s event after losing both of his grandfathers to cancer within the past year.

“It’s near and dear to me,” he said. “This is super special. We are on our practice field right now and they turned it into a playground for a bunch of kids who need smiles on their faces. Cancer sucks, but to see these kids smile, see these kids have fun, it brings a smile to my face.”

The family fun night was part of a busy day for Bills players, who visited children at four sites in Buffalo to raise awareness about community issues in light of recent protests during the national anthem.

It was also one of six Crucial Catch initiatives the Bills and Erie County Medical Center have planned for this week:

• Bills alumni hosted a prostate screening event at ECMC on Monday.

• An ECMC mammography coach will provide free breast cancer screenings today at Dunn Tire’s Olean store, 515 W. State St.

• Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly will join Dr. Maureen Sullivan at ECMC on Thursday to share his story about battling cancer and explore ways to increase prevention. Video of Kelly’s presentation will be shown on BuffaloBills.com and the team’s social media channels.

• Bills players will share their stories of loved ones affected by cancer on Friday. The team will also unveil a special edition Yowie clothing item that will be given to the first 50,000 fans arriving at Sunday’s game.

• More than 50 survivors of all forms of cancer will be invited onto New Era Field prior to Sunday’s Crucial Catch game. Fans are encouraged to declare their fight against the disease through a special Snapchat filter.

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