If you were anywhere near Atlanta last weekend, you heard the words “Rise Up” over and over. The call was everywhere, along with their signature red and black.
“Rise Up, Falcons. Rise Up.”
By winning their division, the Atlanta Falcons earned a bye and week off. While the other NFC teams battled to keep playing, the Falcons planned, schemed, and prepared to Rise Up on the field. But this team did something greater. This week, the Falcons Rose Up for a young fan battling much more than football – he’s fighting cancer.
Kyle is ten years-old and lives in nearby Lilburn, Georgia. In June, his world was turned upside-down when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of pediatric bone cancer. Kyle’s attitude has been completely positive through all of the needle pokes, nausea, and mouth sores that come with his chemotherapy. Throughout it all, he has tried to make others laugh, stay strong, and be a good role model through all of his pain. That can be a tall task for a grown man, much less a kid. And trying to be so strong added extra pressure to his already tough situation. It has been a hard six months of treatment.
And then a special call came asking him if he wanted to be an honorary captain for the Falcons.
“When they told us what he was picked to do, he was in the hospital for treatment and he yelled for joy!” said his mother, Dee. “He spent the next week and a half preparing – reading up on stats and viewing old game footage. Kyle was so excited.”
Kyle was excited when he arrived at the dome and was treated as a VIP. He was thrilled to be on the sideline and he couldn’t keep from bouncing up and down. He had a fantastic time meeting different people and seeing how everything worked. And then the players came to meet him.
First came defensive tackle, Courtney Upshaw, who handed him a pair of gloves that he immediately put on. Then wide receiver, Eric Weems came over and gave him one of the practice balls. He met cheerleaders and head coach, Dan Quinn. As the time for the coin toss drew near, many other players said hello, slapped him on the back, and high-fived him.
When he began walking to the fifty yard-line as honorary captain, Weems caught him and said, “You know we’re brothers right? If anyone asks, you tell them we’re brothers.”
The Falcons went on to win an exciting game and Kyle had an incredible experience. Looking back over all of it, that one little comment from Weems meant the world to Kyle. He talked about it all night. It made him feel immediately connected and like someone had his back. When he got home, he did some reading about Weems and found he had a word that Kyle is going to use now: Determination.
“I’m going to be determined to do by best, be kind, and achieve my goals,” Kyle said. “That means I’ll never give up. Eric wouldn’t have gotten so good if he had given up when things got tough so I won’t give up when physical therapy is tough. I want to be strong like Eric!”
Well done, Falcons. You truly did Rise Up – not only on the field, but in the life of a special young cancer fighter!