The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation on Monday hosted the ninth annual All-Star Survivors Celebration for 31 women currently battling breast cancer.*
Before the morning festivities began, former Redskins tight end and current radio personality Chris Cooley made a brief introduction to kick off the ninth annual All-Star Survivors Celebration.
"Let everyone take care of you," he implored the 31 women sitting in the Redskins dining room, all of whom were in various stages battling breast cancer.
Moments later, that's exactly what they did, splitting into five groups and rotating through pampering stations around the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park. The survivors had opportunities to apply makeup, take home a new pair of Gap Jeans, receive a massage, try on a wig or head scarf and tour the facility. The tender love and care was not done without some help.
The 31 survivors, who also participated in pregame field ceremonies during Sunday's victory over the Eagles, were joined in solidarity by Tanya Snyder, wife of Redskins owner Dan Snyder, Kiersten Allen, Sherry Gruden, Jessica McCloughan as well as wives of players and coaches, and Redskins players – Colt McCoy, Chris Baker, Anthony Lanier II, Houston Bates, Will Compton, Arie Kouandjio, Dustin Hopkins, Nick Sundberg, Brandon Scherff and Ryan Grant –who provided an extra layer of support.
Besides allowing the women to take selfies with them and autograph memorabilia, players took part in the activities themselves. Hopkins was the first to volunteer to have his hair sprayed with pink and purple, while Lanier tried out nearly every wig that was available.
"The lipstick kind of scares me, I can't look at a mirror without putting it down," Kouandjio said. "But these ladies are having fun and I'm happy to show them a good time."
"I got my hair colored, then we started a trend within our whole group," Hopkins said. "Some of the other ladies got their hair colored as well. So once we did that, we kind of got a group bonding experience. This make-up session, I don't know if I'm looking forward to it after seeing some of the other fellas."
"Besides the touchup and makeup and getting all pretty, this is a hard time in their lives," Bates said. "To have a day like this just to spend with us, have fun, joke around, get some makeup, a massage, take a tour of the facility, it really means a lot to them, makes their day. Anytime I can do that, we're all for it. Day off or not, we're here for them."
Delighted by it all was Cheryl Bland, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last December. At her doctor's advice, she underwent a lumpectomy on her right breast and has followed each medical course of action without a complaint.
"I've gone through harsh chemotherapy, I've gone through surgery, radiation, and now I have to go back and do maintenance chemo," said Bland, a Woodbridge, Va., native. "But God is good, because I've not been down, I've worked through all of this. I didn't stop working."
Local women currently battling breast cancer were treated to an afternoon of pampering as they took part in makeup consultations, wig fittings, jeans fittings, massages and tours of Redskins Park on Monday, October 17, 2016.
Supported by her sisters, who live nearby, and her eldest son, Bland said that coming to an event like this is an ideal remedy for doubts and despair.
"It is special, especially when everybody is so upbeat with this horrible disease," she said. "Everybody's so uplifted, upbeat, nobody's thinking about 'Oh, it's the end.' Through modern science, technology and medicine, it's not the end. I think this is awesome."
The event has grown considerably since Cooley first started it. Watching his mother, Nancy, fight through breast cancer and the emotional rollercoaster attached to the diagnosis, the surgeries and physical transformation during chemotherapy, inspired him to provide a day for women who needed comfort in their lives.
He worked closely with Tanya Snyder, a breast cancer survivor herself, to create this celebration. It has since grown with the support of the American Cancer Society, which provided the new wigs and scarves.
"This was an inspiration that came from him out of the love for his mom, which is really powerful," Tanya Snyder said of Cooley. "Yesterday I got a chance to hug and say hello to everybody and it was really special to meet everybody…I'm so proud to be a part of this event and so proud to get to know everybody here."
After a special lunch, the survivors all received gift baskets from the IIIB's Foundation, culminating in hugs, tears and more conversation.
"Being able to hang with them and see how encouraged they are and how brave they are, whether they have faced or still facing a disease that is obviously scary, is encouraging to us," Hopkins said. "As players, just knowing whatever we're facing is relatively small compared to what they're going through -- they can still have a smile on their face and enjoy themselves. It's a gift to us being a part of their lives today."