Like everyone else around the world the shocking news of Actress Kelly Preston’s death has truly saddened me. My heart goes out to her family; husband John Travolta; and her two beautiful children Ella & Benjamin. I would like to think that Kelly is now with her beloved oldest son Jett, received in his arms together in heaven.
The reason I wanted to write this article was to share my experience meeting Kelly way back in the 80’s! I was still a young teen and Kelly had just finished taping the pilot for a CBS soap opera called CAPITOL at the start of her budding career.
I had been taking summer acting classes at The Soap Set Acting Studio and we were given passes to a Pre Soap Opera Awards meet & greet and that is where I met Kelly.
She was a beautiful and vibrant light. They always say you can see when someone has that “it” factor which is that thing that makes them stand out, and Kelly Preston had “it”. There was also a warm, glowing light around her with an infectious smile. As I was walking around I noticed many Soap Opera Stars from many of the soaps that were popular at the time. As a major fan, I was in heaven and it was truly a night to remember.
After saying hello to some of the Actors from my favorite shows I walked up to Kelly who greeted me with that amazing smile and an extended hand. She said “hello, I’m Kelly”, and asked how I was doing. I didn’t recognize her from any of the shows that I religiously watched but she was just so friendly and kind! She made me feel like I belonged, and even asked if I was enjoying myself. I told her I was taking acting classes and enjoyed watching Soaps. An early dream of mine was to act on a Soap Opera. She told me to keep studying and practicing and to pursue my goals and dreams. I never forgot that or the beautiful young lady with the vibrant smile who gave me that advice.
I left that party feeling great about myself and I didn’t feel like a mere fan. She made me feel like an equal and I felt that some day I could be amongst the stars. She showed me great respect. I left that night feeling any and all things were possible.
Thank you for that Kelly. I will never forget that feeling or the young woman who made me feel that way. God bless you and rest in peace.
With the passing of Buffalo Bills superfan Ezra Castro AKA Pancho Billa, the NFL fandom was reminded just how fragile life can be. Fans and players of all teams came together to mourn a man that loved his team, family, & everyone that came in contact with him.
Thirty nine years is not enough for most people, but in those years Ezra gave a lifetime worth of kindness and love. After every kind act shown to him, Ezra was shocked & often humbled at the kindness that people gave him. He never got that people thought he was a big deal and downplayed his importance. In a social media world where the need for attention and self importance is the norm, Ezra was a regular guy and a breath of fresh air.
When Greg Dresko and I did our podcast with Ezra, it was obvious he did not feel good but he rarely cancelled anything. Even on his bad days he would do interviews with a smile. After our podcast I created a prayer night for him that Greg & I promoted. Literally thousands of people got involved praying for Pancho and all of those battling cancer. We did a second one not too long ago that was also greatly supported. People really cared and it was inspiring.
Buffalo was the perfect team for Ezra. It is a team that is set back in the time of the old AFL. A team that has not yet been ruined by the greed of NFL owners who’s only loyalty is to the money they can make. They have an old stadium, the second lowest ticket prices in the NFL, and a raucous loyal fan base. While everyone else changed, Buffalo didn’t. It is a special place.
With fancy, expensive stadiums pricing out many fans, the Bills are stuck in a wonderful time warp that allows for a foundation that continues to come to the games year after year. A loyal following that braves bitter cold and wind to support their Bills. From Jack Kemp to Joe Ferguson, to Jim Kelly to Andre Reed, the Bills rich tradition is steeped in a blue collar us against the world mentality. What an amazing place.
I don’t think any fan base or team other than Buffalo could have survived losing 4 Super Bowls while still coming back with dignity and grace. Through all of the jokes and taunting, winning 4 conference championships is still among one of the greatest achievements in NFL history & they are very proud of it.
Ezra & the Spirit of Buffalo:
In true Buffalo Bill spirit, Pancho Billa battled until the end. Just like Steve Tasker making an amazing play in a Super Bowl that had long been lost, Ezra never gave up. Adversity was what Ezra faced each day after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Even in his darkest days he would show a positive, caring spirit that inspired so many. We DM’d each other on Twitter and his last message to me was a smiling emoji with a halo over his head. He knew. He also though remained positive asking people to never quit praying for a miracle. Giving up was never an option.
In reality the biggest gift Pancho Billa gave to people was the way he handled his illness. Even with social media bringing out the worst in people, he showed a spirit of pride and kindness that touched so many. He remained positive at the worst of times inspiring us all to not take ourselves too seriously. In a world where many get angry at the drop of a hat, he showed a calm passion and compassion for others during his fight.
The Power of NFL Fans:
Ezra reminded NFL fans everywhere that we are not gang members or part of a football militia that should hate anything not affiliated with our teams. He showed that in reality we are all on the same team of life and that football is a fun outlet & family to belong to. Happiness, health & supporting each other during the best and worst of times is what life is about. We all saw how our hearts are more powerful than any owners money or new stadium. It’s about the fans and the amazing relationships that we create from being fans. The simplest of things.
How I’ll Remember Ezra & You:
What I’ll remember most about Ezra, was how he brought everyone together. For a moment in time fans in New England and Oakland were on the same team. Dallas and Philly fans prayed for a miracle together and people began to realize all of the petty arguments and hate was not what being a fan was about. It’s a willingness to help when hope is hard to find, and being there to support and love someone during great times as well as their darkest hour.
Many of you have really touched me with your sincerity and compassion and I’m very proud of everyone. Your kindness touched Ezra and helped him and his family get through such an unspeakable tragedy. As much of a gift people felt Pancho was, he felt the same about you. He brought out the best in all of us and it sure felt good.
How to Keep His Legacy Alive:
If you really want to keep his legacy alive, lets be like him. Give as much as you can to others and show kindness with a calm spirit. As Ezra once said, “don’t bring flowers to my funeral. I hate flowers. Bring backpacks full of school supplies for kids”. Think of others first, and show love and appreciation and support to one another. Most of all do it without judgement or opinion. Love completely without complete understanding. What an amazing legacy that would be. And nothing would be more pleasing to the great Pancho Billa.
In the medical field; and in life; you see so many amazingly brave and kind people battling diseases. Their courage is never seen or talked about. They worry about their families and are selfless in their battle. People in the news also have those battles. Some choose to fight them publicly; some privately.
For Craig Sager he somewhat had no choice. In today’s hyper sensitive society which judges anything that is seen or done; especially on television; Craig Sager was seen all the time. For him though he wanted to show that you can fight things with strength. determination and with a sense of humor. He knew every move he did would be watched but that he would always just be himself. Little did anyone know how much this would touch people.
Craig Sager was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in 2014 and it was obvious that he was not going to be working the 2014 NBA playoffs. The severity of the disease and the diagnosis hit the NBA and Turner television family hard. Without treatment he had 3 to 6 months to live. Even with treatment this form of cancer was very aggressive and the long term prognosis was not good.
While his father was out, in a moving scene Craig’s son Craig Jr. interviewed the surly coach of the San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich. His nastiness to reporters is of legend. During the interview Gregg was very kind and showed a lot of love to Craig Jr. but he added that he would rather have Sr. there instead.
Along the way #sagerstrong began to pop up on Twitter. People would see news stories of Sager in his extremely upbeat battle with the disease. He was positive even through the worst of times. He had an amazing 3 bone marrow transplants and went through chemotherapy along the way.
His daughter Kacy didn’t seem too pleased with her dad at one time on Twitter. In the middle of an 8 day chemotherapy session Craig drove 3 hours to do the Oklahoma Thunder-San Antonio Spurs game after a treatment.
“My dad is in the middle of 8 days of chemo, drove 3.5 hours from HOU to SA to work this game, driving back in the am. Absurd. Meanwhile my roommate called out of work because she feels like crap”
The whole NBA community was pulling for Craig. During the playoffs that he missed, for one day the entire Turner team dressed in crazy suits like Craig. Many even from other networks did it. It was an amazing show of support to a man that was battling so hard.
Charles Barkley had hip replacement surgery and was told he could not fly for a while. When he heard Craig’s wife Stacy had a cold and could no longer be in the room with Craig, Charles hopped on a plane and visited. “Craig Sager is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. You go to visit him to cheer him up and his attitude is so upbeat he cheers you up”.
Craigs shining moment was his story and then speech about fighting cancer at the Espy’s, the annual award ceremony ESPN does. He was given the Jimmy V award in honor of former North Carolina St. coach Jim Valvano who passed away of cancer. The Jimmy V foundation has raised millions for cancer research.
His appreciation to the Turner broadcasting team for helping him to keep working was one of the first things he talked about. In a day when corporations seem to have no morals, character or heart, he appreciated their amazing support.
Craig talked about living with passion and having fun. Fighting it with a great attitude and fire and how that attitude can help the way you act.
When Craig first started he took a lot of ribbing. Some didn’t take him seriously due to his crazy suits. But in time people realized he was real. He was fun, kind, hard working and loyal. He loved life and loved and appreciated people. He took his job seriously and loved the NBA and the whole experience. He loved the hustle and bustle of his job but he never took himself too seriously.
In reality what we loved about Craig Sager is he was how we wanted our athletes and our news people to be. In a day with so many scandals, arrogance, pettiness and dysfunctional actions, we loved that Craig was kind, caring and full of fun. He was vulnerable and humble and kind in a way that made us feel connected to him. An everyman.
Craig was given a terrible sentence and he battled an amazing 2 years. I’m sure the doctors didn’t expect him to last that long but Craig did it in a way that inspired millions. Our family like all of yours, has probably been through the pains of cancer. I’ve sat with patients as they died. I’ve sat with loved ones as they took their last breath. The torturous battle that is sometimes seen in cancer is a battle that so many have endured.
But in the end it’s not how people die that matters; it’s how they lived. How we fight the battles and how we touch others doing it. We’ve seen the tragedies but we’ve also seen the courage and triumph. The passionate battles and the perseverance through treatment and adversity. The amazing human spirit that is seen in people that never get the publicity or the attention during their quiet battles.
To all of you battling, I pray for you deeply and hope that one day they will find better treatments which lead to finding cures. And for loved ones and those with cancer, I say one thing. Stay Sager Strong and live with all you have no matter how long the time.
When I first heard about Stephen Sutton, I was pretty amazed. It was another amazing story of a kid that was given a bad hand in life but who instead of folding, went all in.
Stephen was born on December 16, 1994 in Burntwood England. He was the classic energetic and fun loving kid growing up but when he was 15 his world changed forever. He was diagnosed with Stage 3 colorectal cancer. Even after aggressive treatment, it spread to other parts of his body. The doctors gave the unfortunate news that it was incurable.
For anyone that is devastating news. Cancer doesn’t care if you are famous, rich, old, poor or young. Instead of giving up though, Stephen; in his own words; was going to “make cancer his bitch.”
He made a list of 46 things he wanted to do in life and he amazingly did 34 of them. He created a facebook page, Stephen’s Story (https://www.facebook.com/StephensStory) which now has over 1 million followers. He began fundraising for the Teenage Cancer Trust fund. His goal was to raise $10,000 pounds but instead of that, he has raised over $3.4 MILLION pounds. Kids and famous people all over the UK began to donate.
His famous thumbs up with a smile inspired everyone. People of all ages began to send photos on his Facebook page with a thumbs up of support. He also was a part of breaking a Guinness Book of World Record by being a part of the largest amount of people outlining a heart with their hands.
He was able to meet Prime Minister David Cameron and his photo with him with a big “thumbs up” went viral. He lit a positive fire in the UK that will be eternal.
In a final message, he inspired like only certain people can during their darkest hour. Stephen showed us that life isn’t about being rich, having the hottest woman, or being around fame and fortune. It isn’t arrogance or things or possessions. He showed us that even in today’s technology based world, the most powerful thing of all is still the love and kindness of the human heart. It’s compassion for others, and smiling and standing strong during good and bad times. It’s inspiring others and making a difference through love. The simplest of things.
‘It’s a final thumbs up from me! (Stephen’s last message)
‘I’ve done well to blag things as well as I have up till now, but unfortunately I think this is just one hurdle too far. ‘It’s a shame the end has come so suddenly- there’s so many people I haven’t got round to properly thank or say goodbye too. Apologies for that.
‘There was also so many exciting projects and things I didn’t get to see out. Hopefully some will continue and if you want to carry on the fundraising please do (justgiving.com/stephen-sutton-TCT is the link to donate to).
‘All future updates on this page will probably be from a family member. I hopefully may have the energy to write a few tweets (@_StephensStory).
‘I will continue fighting for as long as I can, and whatever happens next I want you all to know I am currently in a good place mentally and at ease with the situation. ‘That’s it from me. It has been a good life. Very good.’