Young cancer patient inspires NFL lobbying effort

Jun 24, 2016

Players in the National Football League wear pink in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Now, a Niagara Falls teacher is trying to get the NFL to wear gold for one week in September in recognition of pediatric cancer awareness.

The movement was started on behalf of 5-year-old Shawn Kennedy of Niagara Falls who suffers from Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, an inoperable kind of brain tumor. Ten months ago, Kennedy, or “Baby Shawn” as he is known, was given only nine months to live.

5-year-old Shawn Kennedy met his idol, basketball star Steph Curry, earlier this year.
Credit Shawn Kennedy's Facebook page

“Not many people know this but pediatric cancer awareness gets very little funding. They only get four percent of all federal funding. Two-thousand five-hundred kids die every single year from pediatric cancer, brain cancer,” said Mike Esposito, a history teacher at Niagara Falls High School.

Esposito will be hand-delivering 7,000 letters to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s office in July. The letters were written by people across the country, most of them from Western New York.

Esposito says he believes raising awareness will bring about change.

“People care about this, they care about kids. Who wouldn’t care about a 5-year-old child? Who wouldn’t care about any child going through this? We’re going to try to change the world. We’re going to try to end cancer, find a cure for it,” Esposito said.

In February, Esposito helped Kennedy meet his idol, NBA star Stephen Curry.