The Houston Texans’ Kareem Jackson’s childhood was embroiled in ongoing battles against cancer — not his own, but first his older sister’s, then his mother’s — twice.
There were overnight stays in the hospital, trips to school straight from doctor appointments, and only a mild understanding by Jackson, who was just 6 when it all started, about what his sister and mother were going through.
Today both Jackson’s sister and mother are in remission from leukemia and breast cancer, respectively, but that doesn’t mean Jackson has forgotten about what his family endured for most of his boyhood. Now the 29-year-old cornerback for the Houston Texans prioritizes his work with the National Football League’s Crucial Catch cancer prevention initiative as well as his own cancer fundraising and awareness events at the Kareem Jackson Foundation, which focuses primarily on raising awareness about breast cancer and children’s cancers.
“Having this platform now, it was almost a no-brainer for me to be able to touch some other families and be in contact with other people going through the same thing my family did,” Jackson tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Jackson may not be in the research lab, but when he’s off the field he’s busy visiting children in oncology wards, inviting ill children to Texans games, and playing the role of waiter to attendees at his foundation’s fundraising nights, with one recent event in particular raising roughly $160,000 for cancer research.
The Kareem Jackson foundation is lean, operated by what Jackson describes as a handful of guys out of Texas and Los Angeles, as well as groups like Prolanthropy, which helps organize and manage professional athletes’ philanthropic endeavors, and the Candlelighters, a childhood cancer family support foundation.
For all the fun Jackson says he has hosting events and spending time with kids, he also feels the satisfaction of encouraging the people he meets to get regular cancer screenings and to learn more about their risk levels.
“A lot of the time, you see people who don’t know until it’s too late, and most people don’t have the knowledge about these different types of cancers,” Jackson says. “Stay up to date with your checkups, and your kids’ as well, and make sure they’re out there being active. If we can catch [cancer] early, try some treatments, we can try to knock it out.”
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