Bengals legends connect with patients, staff at Kettering Health Cancer Center

Event was part of NFL’s Crucial Catch program, targeting early detection of cancer.

The Kettering Health Cancer Center hosted about a dozen former Cincinnati Bengals players on Thursday as part of the NFL’s Crucial Catch campaign, which aims to fight cancer via early detection efforts.

The former football stars showed support for cancer patients by assembling care packages, meeting with local patients, and recording greetings for Kettering Health to share.

“About five months ago, Kettering Health had the honor and privilege of being selected as the official health care provider for the Cincinnati Bengals, and it’s been a whirlwind couple of months,” said Jimmy Phillips, vice president of marketing and communications at Kettering Health. “I think when we sat back and envisioned what the peak of this partnership would look like, it was today. It was the opportunity to kick off Crucial Catch Month. We can’t always prevent cancer, but early detection saves lives.”

Kettering Health CEO Fred Manchur said Thursday was exciting for those at Kettering Health, emphasizing the values of “faith, family, and work” when welcoming the former Bengals players.

“Our Crucial Catch mission is to fight cancer through early detection ... and risk reduction, supporting those who are seeking treatment and those who are taking care of patients, celebrating those treatment milestones, and when people reach remission, and to offer remembrance to those that we’ve lost,” said Alexandra Simon, director of community engagement with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Together, the former Bengals players assembled approximately 800 care packages before going to meet patients at the Kettering Health Cancer Center.



“I have had the honor of being a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, which basically speaks to a career of advocacy on behalf of the less fortunate, whether it’s kids in school, but especially those who are dealing with the ravages of cancer,” said Reggie Williams, a former linebacker who played for the Bengals from 1976 to 1989.

Williams, who also served on Cincinnati City Council, said his father died from cancer, so he advocates for early detection cancer screenings.

“It’s a collaborative endeavor to ensure we all live our best lives, and to do that, we need each other and to tap into the gifts of the medical profession,” Williams said. Williams has overcome medical conditions like an aorta dissection, a stroke, and five knee replacements. “You have to have confidence in the expertise and the wisdom of your doctors and the administrators that are here to help us.”

He also traveled from Florida to be in Kettering on Thursday.

“The whole ride up here from Cincinnati was very nostalgic,” Williams said.

Williams played in two Super Bowls, XVI (1981) and XXIII (1988), and his record included 16 interceptions and 23 fumble recoveries. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

Several other former Bengals talked about the cancer effort having meaning to them.



“I’ve been an elementary school teacher for many years, and I’ve had families with health issues that were difficult to deal with, and I know that a little bit of help can go a long way, and for me to be of service a little bit here hopefully will make a difference in someone’s life,” said Scott Perry, a former defensive back. He played for the Bengals from 1976 to 1979 before teaching first grade in Los Angeles.

“This partnership right now with Kettering Health is to let the community know about early detection, (and) also to give these cancer patients some comfort and some love, knowing that we’re here with them in spirit,” said Willie Anderson, a former offensive tackle for the Bengals from 1996 to 2007 who was a four-time Pro Bowl player.

“We’re praying for them, we’re pulling for them. We understand the struggle they’re going through. We hope that these small gestures can give them some comfort,” Anderson said.

Anderson, along with Levi Jones, a former offensive tackle with the Bengals, greeted patients together at the Kettering Health Cancer Center. The patients included Mike Fitzpatrick of Kettering, who was getting treatment for colon cancer on Thursday.

“It’s very nice of them to do that when they don’t have to,” Fitzpatrick said.

Several other former players also greeted patients and staff members. In addition to Williams, Perry, Anderson and Jones, participating ex-Bengals included Jim Breech, David Fulcher, Isaac Curtis, Scott Perry, Tim McGee, Nate Lawrie, Blair Bush, Robert Jackson and Jim Anderson.



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