The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award recognizes an NFL player for his excellence on and off the field. Every year, each NFL team nominates one player from their team who has had a significant positive impact on his community. This year, Russell Wilson was nominated for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, and at Seattle Children’s we wanted to say congratulations and share how much Wilson means to us.

You’re our Man of the Year

Wilson has been making regular visits to Seattle Children’s to visit children at the hospital since 2012 when his career was just starting out. Back then, he was a rookie quarterback and could walk through the halls of the hospital with little fanfare. Today, that’s not the case. Everyone at Seattle Children’s knows Wilson, and he’s the hospital’s favorite quarterback. He’s so adored, Seattle Children’s has even dedicated a day to honor him and his weekly visits: Blue Tuesdays.

Wilson has visited thousands of children throughout the years, and he’s given generously to the hospital, both his time and through philanthropic gifts. Seattle Children’s is incredibly grateful for the hope and smiles he brings to children and their families.

When Hannah Mae Campbell met Russell Wilson and his wife Ciara, their family was over-the-moon with excitement. They threw a pink football back and forth in the hospital room and shared a personal connection with the quarterback. In 2012, when Wilson threw a hail marry pass to beat the Packers, Hannah Mae’s new heart beat for the first time in her chest.

Wilson’s visits mean to the world to patients and families. Before the pandemic, children would decorate posters and their hospital room doors to greet Wilson as he strolled through the medical units.

A dream come true

*Please note photos were taken pre-COVID.

Harper Foy was born with an incredibly rare genetic condition called Harlequin Ichthyosis (HI). It is so rare it is estimated to occur in just 1 in 500,000 newborns. Doctors where she was born had never seen anything like it. Harper was given a 50 percent chance of survival. At only days old, she was transferred to Seattle Children’s to receive life-saving care. When Harper was at Seattle Children’s, her family got a special visit from Wilson. His calming and reassuring presence was so meaningful to Angie Foy and her husband during such a difficult time.

Today, Harper is thriving and is an aspiring model. She loves Wilson so much that one of her first photoshoots was at the hospital and the theme was blue and green for the Seahawks. She adorned a Wilson jersey and showed off her touchdown dance.

Happy transplant day

Isaac Williams was diagnosed with stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma at 17 months old. He was rushed to Seattle Children’s for what they thought was appendicitis. That’s when an ultrasound found something unimaginable: a NERF football sized mass in his abdomen. His odds of survival were 50 percent — like the flip of a coin. That day, his medical journey began.

During an inpatient stay at the hospital, Isaac and his mother, Kelli, had a special visitor stop by their room. Russell Wilson and Ciara wished Isaac a happy transplant day!

 

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Thanks to a rigorous treatment plan, Isaac beat the odds. After five rounds of chemotherapy, surgery to remove the mass, a stem cell transplant, more chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy, Isaac is back to being a kid again, outside the walls of the hospital.

Continuing a tradition

Even during the pandemic, Wilson continues to visit kids at the hospital, albeit his visits look a little different these days. Instead of walking through the halls of the hospital, he visits children through Zoom and spends time with them chatting from his home.

In December, 7-year-old Jackson Boboth got to chat with Wilson, and it was just what the doctor ordered.

Jackson was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on Nov. 12, 2020. His parents noticed he wasn’t acting like his usual self. His identical twin seemed completely fine, but Jackson was pale and lethargic. After a couple weeks with no improvement to his complexion and energy level, they decided to call their pediatrician. Blood tests revealed an unimaginable diagnosis: cancer.

The next day, they traveled from the home in Eastern Washington to Seattle Children’s.

“We dropped our three other kids off at my brother’s house and went straight there,” Everett Boboth said. “We didn’t know how long we’d be gone. We just left.”

It was really emotional for their family.

“2020 certainly ended with a bang,” he said.

When they left, Everett was trying to help reassure Jackson and find a bright spot. “You know, Russell Wilson visits Seattle Children’s,” he told his son. “Maybe we’ll see him.”

“I wanted him to be able to look forward to something,” Boboth said. “I knew he was going to be asked to do really hard things. I needed to find something good.”

When they were inpatient at Seattle Children’s, Garett Goody, a child life specialist, helped arrange the visit to lift Jackson’s spirit.

 

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“It was really good,” Boboth said. “We didn’t talk much about football. We talked about life.”

Jackson and Wilson bonded over their disdain for COVID-19 tests. Wilson told Jackson he has to have one every day, and it made Jackson feel a little bit better.

When asked what their family would say to Wilson for making time to visit with their son, Jackson didn’t have any words.

“Thank you for taking the time to love and serve the community,” Boboth said.

He said even with everything they have going on they want to help others as well, like Wilson does, and like so many other people have done for them during this difficult time.

“We hope we can be kind and love others, even in the midst of everything else,” he said.

Saying thank you

Wilson has touched the lives of so many children at Seattle Children’s. To say thank you, Seattle Children’s asked a few families what they would say to him. From gratitude to congratulations, our patients say it best, “We love you, Russell.”