Another year, another successful “Field Of Dreams” event for the Impact Foundation. Every time I get the opportunity to serve the members of the program, I am also reminded of the reason I started it all in the first place.
11 years ago, close to the day, I found out my brother was diagnosed with cancer. My heart was already heavy from losing my father and mother almost simultaneously the year before. Greg (my brother) had not been feeling well and went to the hospital and that’s when he got earth-shattering news– for the both of us.
He was diagnosed with Chronic T-Cell Lymphocytic, a malignant form of bone cancer. The doctors told us give him a chance a survival he would need a bone marrow transplant.
I instantly knew that I needed to be the one to help shoulder my brother’s burden. For years people would highlight our similarities, saying that we acted the same, looked the same, and have the same temperaments. I welcomed the chance to breathe life into my brother with open arms because that’s what he’s done for me my entire life. He is one of my first heroes.
My inclination was right. The doctors told me I would be his bone marrow donor, but because he was on Medicaid he wasn’t able to schedule the operation until was approved by their department. That revelation couldn’t have come at a more difficult time: during the training camp of my second year with the Colts. At the helm of our team was the wise Tony Dungy. Coach Dungy had gone through the lost of his father not long before, and knew where I was coming from. He had a philosophy I still truly admire:
“Faith, Family and Football”.
He knew that in my case, the leave of absence was imperative. Although other coaches in that position might not have made the same call, Coach Dungy stuck to his principles and gave me the time to help my brother. I thank him to this day for that understanding, and without him I would not be where I am today.
I flew home and once I got there, went straight to the hospital. I shot neoprene shots into my body to build up my white blood cells, so they could be extracted for my brother. The process took 3 full days. After the first, I walked my brother back to his room where he was receiving chemotherapy at the same time. My ordeal paled in comparison. We also saw a slew of children & families affected by the disease (cancer). Parents & guardians would drive 3-4 hrs away to come get their child the best care and sometimes that had to leave to go home to tend for the rest of their children.
That time helped me fashion a goal: to make a difference in lives of children & families with critical diseases and chronic illness. Since 2007, we have touched the lives of over 200,000 people with our program and garybrackett.org. Most years, we are fortunate enough to sponsor “Field Of Dreams” events for our children to get the chance to attend pro sports games and connect with one another. Thanks local partners like the Indianapolis Indians, Indiana Pacers, & Indianapolis Colts, we are able to brighten up the days of these children, add a bit of excitement to their lives, and put them in good spirits. It’s a drop in the bucket for these strong individuals, but it’s the least we can do.
After I threw out the first pitch (a little high, but a solid throw ????), the announcer said name: Gary “Rocket Arm” Brackett. The catcher and I shared a laugh about him peeking up expecting some heat when they announced me as “Rocket Arm” ????.
Enjoying my time representing @bracketts_impact at the @indyindians game. Got to throw the 1st pitch too. A great time for an even greater cause. _________________ _________________ #BrackettsImpact #10YearsStrong #Charity #Nonprofit #Legacy #Impact #Indianapolis #Indiana https://t.co/4UDZJmGhsm
As I left the mound, while giving high fives on the way back to our section, and observing the 40+ families using the day to take a break from their child’s illness, I realized that our efforts are not only for the kids, but the loved ones who care for them every day as well.
Our foundation is truly blessed to host another “Field Of Dreams” event for the foundation. I am thankful for my wife and family for sharing in this joy and allowing me to be a part of these children’s journeys. I am thanks for the support of the countless people who continue to support our foundation
Looking to share in that joy? Check out GaryBrackett.Org for more information. Also, check out the full story of my life by reading my book: Winning:From Walk-On to Captain, in Football and Life