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Football Fundraising Competition Yields More Than $5.9M for Childhood Cancer Research

Nine-year-old leukemia fighter Ethan Watts accepted the award on behalf of C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Image courtesy of the U-M Health System.

Before the football game even started on October 1, the Michigan Wolverines had already beaten the Wisconsin Badgers. But fans on both sides had something to cheer about.

The first-ever Wolverine-Badger challenge between C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital (Mott) at the University of Michigan (U-M) and the University of Wisconsin’s American Family Children’s Hospital helped raise more than $5.9 million for pediatric cancer research.

The football game was the culmination of a monthlong competition between the rivals to see who could raise the most money during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

For much of the month, the Badgers were in the lead. But thanks to a large gift from an anonymous donor, Michigan leaped ahead in the last week. Nine-year-old leukemia-fighter Ethan Watts led the marching band to Michigan Stadium and was invited onto the football field to accept the plaque on behalf of Mott.

“We may cheer for different teams in the stands, but we are on the same side in the fight against childhood cancer,” said Valerie Opipari, MD, chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases at Mott.”

The Wolverine-Badger challenge is part of the monthlong Block Out Cancer campaign at Mott, designed to increase awareness about the need for pediatric cancer research in September.

Several celebrities and athletes participated in the #BlockOutCancer campaign, including National Football League stars Charles Woodson, Randy Moss, Matt Hasselbeck, Trent Dilfer, Drew Stanton, and LaMarr Woodley. Other participants included Top Chef Fabio Viviani, actor Jack Falahee, ESPN’s Jemele Hill, Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, ESPN analyst Adam Schefter, and Detroit Lions quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Dan Orlovsky.

Each year, more than 13,000 parents will learn that their child has cancer. Despite great advancements in research and treatment, one out of five children with cancer does not survive, and cancer is still the leading cause of death by disease among children in the United States.

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This article was adapted from information provided by the U-M Health System.