NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made his share of enemies over the years, but he recently made a friend in a 5-year-old Niagara Falls boy.
Last week, Goodell met with cancer patient Shawn Kennedy, who suffers from an inoperable type of brain tumor called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. Kennedy, nicknamed "Baby Shawn," traveled to New York with Niagara Falls High School history teacher Mike Esposito to hand-deliver 7,500 letters asking NFL players to wear gold for one week of the season, the color that represents pediatric cancer.
“I remember just seeing Shawn’s eyes light up and he said, 'Yeah, I’d love to meet him!' So it was pretty special," Esposito told WBFO. "Shawn works magic. He has really changed a lot of hearts and minds across Western New York and he just has that magic.”
Earlier this year, Esposito helped Kennedy meet his idol, NBA star Stephen Curry. He says Kennedy and Goodell, a Jamestown native, hit it off and even played a game of catch.
“He just had the time of his life. He was kind of showing off a little bit. He had one football in one hand. He was catching a football that Goodell was throwing to him with one hand and he was laughing and they were joking around and it was pretty special to see.”
"Sammy Watkins better watch out," Goodell told Kennedy, referring to the star Buffalo Bills wide receiver.
The NFL wears pink in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Esposito says the league likely won’t dedicate a week to pediatric cancer awareness this coming fall, but he is optimistic it could happen the following year.
If the NFL doesn’t work out, Esposito plans to pursue Major League Baseball, the NHL and the NBA.
Meanwhile, a charity walk will be held on Sept. 1 on Goat Island in Niagara Falls. The event is being called Golden Steps for Pediatric Cancer Awareness. Sponsors and participants are being sought. For more information, anyone can contact Esposito at (716) 579-3748.