They may no longer be playing football, but the McCourty Twins haven't retired from their commitment to find a cure for a disease that's impacted their family.
Former New England Patriots players Devin and Jason McCourty returned to Gillette Stadium on Monday night for their annual Tackle Sickle Cell Casino Night, reuniting with former teammates like David Andrews, Deatrich Wise Jr. and Lawrence Guy who showed up to support.
"We started and got involved in sickle cell because of our family," Devin said. "Our aunt, who we lost in 2019. Our uncle has sickle cell. Our grandfather has sickle cell. So being back here tonight really brings so many people together – from the hospital community, the sickle cell community, the Next Step foundation – to just have a good night and not think about anything else they're going through. And you get to gamble and you don't lose money. That's probably the best part of the night."
Proceeds from the event will benefit programs at Boston Medical Center, where Devin serves on the hospital’s board of advisors and Jason is a part of the BMC Philanthropic Trust. Money also was raised for Next Step, a non-profit that empowers young people living with serious illnesses.
The McCourty Twins have rallied around this cause for years now.
Inspired by their aunt Winifred's battle with sickle cell anemia, their advocacy didn't stop after her passing in 2019. If anything, it intensified, and they're hoping to sustain that momentum they built using their NFL platforms.
Over the years, their "Tackle Sickle Cell" campaigns have offered awareness and education, held blood drives, and raised funds for the fight against sickle cell – a disease most prevalent in Black and minority communities.
Looking back, the McCourtys marvel at the progress that's been made in research to find a cure.
"One of the coolest things about getting involved with sickle cell – it was really a disease that no one really gave any time or effort to," Devin said.
"So I think we've learned since COVID-19, with all the health equity issues that we see. Us being NFL players at the time, getting involved brought new eyes and a different audience to sickle cell and now we see so many life-changing trials coming out that have really changed the lives of young people."
Thanks to the spotlight shined on the disease by the McCourty Twins, Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft also felt compelled to give back. In 2022, Kraft donated $50 million to Massachusetts General Hospital to combat the healthcare equity gap caused by race, ethnicity, geography, and economic status, inspired at least in part by Devin and Jason.
"It's been awesome to look at this and say, 'Hey, we've been doing his work for over a decade. It's really a blessing and our aunt would be really proud," Devin said.
Casino Night may be over until next year, but it's not too late to find a way to contribute to the McCourty Twins' cause.
"They're doing tremendous work, so go on to their websites, read about what they're doing, and figure out ways of how you can donate money or donate time. There are so many opportunities to get involved. There's so many patients that would definitely love their support and energy."