The annual Tackle Sickle Cell Casino Night hosted by Devin and Jason McCourty has looked different the past two years. Last year, it was a special episode of their podcast, "Double Coverage." On Oct. 25, the fundraising event came back in yet another form: a trivia night.
The twins hosted a virtual night of trivia, light trash talking and fun. Donors were divided into teams and paired with Devin, Jason and Patriots players like Matt Judon, Kyle Van Noy and Matthew Slater.
Of course, with Jason now in Miami, there was good-natured ribbing between the brothers, like when Devin was asked who his favorite teammate of all time was.
"Definitely, Matthew Slater. J-Mac is ranked second," Devin said.
"Dev probably wouldn't make my top five," Jason replied, without missing a beat.
Regardless of the format and the jokes, the end goal of the night was the same: raising money and awareness for those dealing with sickle cell disease.
This is a personal fight for the McCourtys. Their father carried the sickle cell trait. An aunt and uncle both suffered from sickle cell disease, and though their aunt passed away at the age of 69 in 2019, she defied the expectations of her doctors, who said she wouldn't live to see 30.
"It inspired Devin and myself to really get involved and really want to help families and kids who are suffering from this disease ... As much work has been done in a sickle cell arena, there's still a lot more to be done," Jason said. "There are so many great people figuring it out. Devin and myself, we're just trying to do our part to be able to help push the narrative to help raise money for research. We're just to get more people talking about sickle cell disease."
As it turns out, the McCourtys speaking up about sickle cell disease has had a tangible, financial impact on the two organizations their work benefits: Next Step and Boston Medical Center.
BMC Vice President and Chief Development Officer Justin Williams said that sickle cell disease has not been at the forefront of research, and even as the largest sickle cell research and clinical center, BMC hadn't raised a single philanthropic dollar specifically for sickle cell research before Devin and Jason got involved. Since then, they've raised several hundred thousand dollars.
"It's because of their passion, their determination and their heart that we have been able to grow a philanthropic footprint around a disease that has a critical need to raise philanthropic dollar," Williams said. "Devin and Jason, I don't know if they understand the impact on the lives of people who they've touched."
The same can be said for Next Step, an organization that "shatters limitations and elevates aspirations" of young people dealing with serious illness. Executive Director Bill Kubicek said the McCourtys drastically changed their outreach.
"We had to scratch for a long time to find any money to be able to provide programming for sickle cell," he said. "That changed dramatically when Devin and Jason came on the scene. Even in the Greater Boston area, we watched the whole idea around sickle cell awareness just blossom. It's been really incredible the impact that it's had on us. About half of the kids we're serving right now are from the sickle cell community."