FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Prior to Sunday's 43-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on NBC's "Sunday Night Football," the Kraft family and New England Patriots honored more than 160 breast cancer survivors and their caregivers during a touching pregame ceremony at Gillette Stadium to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the NFL's "A Crucial Catch" campaign.
The survivors and caregivers wore pink t-shirts and formed a large breast cancer awareness ribbon at midfield during team introductions and the national anthem. Among those on the field during the ceremony was Foxborough resident and breast cancer survivor, Patty Noonan.
Patriots kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month and wear pink on Sunday night against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"This was absolutely an awesome experience and a very special moment for me and the other survivors," said Noonan, 53. "It gets you teary-eyed, but having the crowd cheering us on out there was truly amazing and makes you feel better."
Noonan, a lifelong Foxborough resident, was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 37 years old. Through the help and support of her friends and family, Noonan has been cancer free for the last 17 years and a strong advocate for raising awareness.
"It absolutely needs to be out there," Noonan said of breast cancer awareness. "There are just too many women who are being diagnosed. Every woman definitely needs to get a mammogram once a year."
Noonan also shared some advice for women who are currently impacted by breast cancer.
"If you're going through it, know that you are not alone and there are support groups out there for you," Noonan said. "Call your friends; call your sisters or brothers. Call anyone and just talk to them about it. You can't keep it all in."
In addition to the 160 breast cancer survivors and caregivers, the Patriots invited Gypsy Spin Music recording artist and breast cancer survivor, Jennifer Tefft, of Franklin, to sing the national anthem. The Kraft family and the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation also presented a $50,000 check to support the American Cancer Society and breast cancer screenings at the Community Health Center of Franklin County.
With the Bengals in town, there was also an added emphasis on supporting pediatric cancer research. Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still's 4-year-old daughter, Leah, recently underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. The Bengals have been supporting the cause by donating the proceeds of the sales of Devon Still jerseys to pediatric cancer research and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. To date, the team has sold more than 12,500 jerseys and raised more than $1 million. The Bengals will continue selling the jerseys at proshop.bengals.com and taking donations on their website, Bengals.com.
The Patriots cheerleaders showed their support by wearing Still jerseys during a break in the third quarter of Sunday's game and the Kraft family announced they would be making an additional $25,000 donation to Cincinnati Children's Medical Center in the name of Leah Still to help fund the fight against pediatric cancers.
"This was an awesome experience," Noonan said. "Once everybody got out there and formed that pink ribbon, it touched home and was absolutely amazing."
ABOUT A CRUCIAL CATCH
The NFL, its clubs, players, the NFL Players Association and the American Cancer Society are committed to saving lives from breast cancer and addressing the unequal burden of cancer in underserved communities.
The campaign, "A Crucial Catch," in partnership with the American Cancer Society, is focused on the importance of annual screenings, especially for women who are 40 and older. Throughout October, NFL games will feature players, coaches and referees wearing pink game apparel, as well as additional on-field and in-stadium branding – all to help raise awareness for this important campaign. Much of the apparel worn at games by players and coaches, along with special game balls and pink coins will be auctioned off at NFL Auction, with proceeds benefiting the American Cancer Society's Community Health Advocates implementing Nationwide Grants for Empowerment and Equity (CHANGE) program.
The crowd showed its support in fabulous style during the Patriots-Bengals game on October 5, 2014.
This year, all NFL markets will be supported with the American Cancer Society grants funded by "A Crucial Catch." Over the past three years, American Cancer Society CHANGE Grants have educated 72,000 women on the benefits and importance of breast cancer screening with more than 10,000 free or low-cost screenings performed. This lifesaving work continues in 2014 and was expanded into all 32 NFL team markets reaching more of the women who need us most. Since the launch of the grant program in 2012, the number of recipients has consistently risen.
A CRUCIAL CATCH DAY
On Oct. 25, the American Cancer Society, grant-funded community health system partners and the NFL are teaming up to launch its first nationwide breast cancer event – A Crucial Catch Day – to provide breast cancer education and free or low-cost screenings within specific underserved communities.