The loss of a beloved family member can be a turning point in a person’s life. Former NFL star DeAngelo Williams, who lost his 53-year-old mother to the disease in 2014, has felt the impact of such a profound event — and it has pushed the athlete to make a difference in other people’s lives.
According to TODAY, running back Williams, who used to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers, also had four aunts who all died of the disease before the age of 50. He has become a staunch supporter of breast cancer awareness as a result.
He created the DeAngelo Williams Foundation in 2014 to “develop and seek initiatives to support the eradication of breast cancer through preventative care and research,” as its website says.
Williams’s foundation work began with the 53 Strong for Sandra screening event. Named in honor of his late mother, 53 Strong for Sandra brought a mobile mammography unit to under-insured or uninsured women in South Carolina.
Since then, Williams’s efforts have helped more underserved people to receive the preventative care necessary to fight breast cancer. In a Facebook post, the foundation wrote, “We have sponsored well over 500 mammograms and have no plans of stopping!”
His commitment to the cause is shown in this Twitter post from 2015:
— DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) October 11, 2015
Breast cancer awareness has been a long-time campaign for Williams. He was instrumental in getting the NFL to show support for breast cancer awareness by wearing pink cleats and other pink accessories during October, back in 2009. During the month, NFL players now wear pink shoes, wristbands, and other items to help spread the word about breast cancer screening, treatment, and research.
During his tenure in the NFL, Williams also wanted to push awareness efforts beyond the traditional October breast cancer awareness month and expand the uniform exception policy beyond that single month. In 2015, the year after he lost his mom, he petitioned the NFL to allow him to continue to wear pink throughout the season. Unfortunately, officials rejected his request.
His daughters even joined in his protest, as shown in this tweet from Adam Schefter:
NFL declined DeAngelo Williams’ request to wear pink beyond October, but his daughters having none of it. pic.twitter.com/u3FVs0Gn5q
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 1, 2015
At the time, he showed off pink in other ways that fell within the NFL’s rules. He dyed the ends of his long hair pink and even colored his nails.
Williams told ESPN: “It’s not just about October for me; it’s not just a month, it’s a lifestyle. It’s about getting women to recognize to get tested.”
What a great way to help spread the word! If you’d like to donate to the cause, visit the DeAngelo Williams Foundation website.