Washington Commanders’ Ron Rivera Recognized with the Cancer Support Community’s Founders Award for Spirit at its Annual Celebration

Washington, D.C., Oct. 20, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- “When you’re going through something as hard as cancer, it can make a big difference to hear personally from someone who’s been there. It’s important for people to know that you’re never really alone,” Coach Ron Rivera reflected with candor.   

A member of the 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl winning team, the former professional football player who still exudes strength and fitness was starting his first season as head coach of the Commanders in 2020 when he was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma. He continued to coach throughout his treatments and, in January 2021, he was declared cancer-free.

Coach Rivera’s reflections are in line with the Cancer Support Community’s (CSC) experience serving hundreds of thousands of people impacted by cancer across the United States and beyond.  For 40 years, CSC has uplifted and strengthened people living with this devastating disease by providing support, fostering compassionate communities, and breaking down barriers to care through education, research, and advocacy.  

“I have been cancer-free since 2021 and now it’s my turn to pay it forward,” Coach Rivera explained in pre-recorded acceptance remarks, due to the Commanders playing schedule. “My family was a continual source of love, support, and encouragement.  My Commanders family gave me the space and flexibility to cope with the difficult side effects of treatment, and the support of the fans was overwhelming.”

A survey of more than 600 cancer patients in the United States recently conducted by CSC with funding by BeiGene revealed that emotional distress is prevalent throughout the cancer experience, with over 60% reporting mental health concerns at diagnosis, while waiting for test results, during treatment, or at recurrence. 

As ESPN reported, Coach Rivera has personally reached out to others facing a cancer diagnosis, offering words of support and encouragement as well as strategies for coping with treatment challenges like the side effects of radiation therapy.

Coach Rivera’s dedication to supporting people facing a cancer diagnosis is just one of the reasons he was honored with the 2023 Founders Award for Spirit at CSC’s Annual Celebration.  This beloved event, held this year in Washington, D.C. at The Hay-Adams, is designed to honor and celebrate the legacy of CSC’s visionary founders, and the community of like-minded individuals and organizations who are committed to uplifting the spirits of and easing the burdens of cancer for people living with this devastating diagnosis. The benefit event also raises vital funds to support CSC’s mission.   CSC provides $50 million in support and services at no-cost to patients, survivors, caregivers, and their loved ones.

 “When my insurance company denied me coverage for what would be life-saving treatment, my team and doctors advocated for me,” Coach Rivera recounted.  He has partnered with national leaders like Danielle Carnival, Deputy Assistant to the President for the Cancer Moonshot, and groups like the National Association of Proton Therapy Providers to advocate for affordable healthcare, particularly proton therapy.  He also serves as a spokesman for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network to honor his brother Mickey, who died from pancreatic cancer in 2015.   

 “We are highly selective of who we choose to honor with a Founders Award.  From raising his voice to advocate for affordable healthcare to sharing his experience widely to shed light on the patient experience and encourage individuals coping with cancer, we see in Coach Rivera someone who absolutely reflects our founders’ legacy,” Weir stated enthusiastically. 

 “As an NFL coach, I understand the strength of community…I promise you, I will do everything in my power to continue to educate the policy makers about the realities of living with cancer and inspire those living with this dreaded disease,” Coach Rivera vowed with both a Commanders helmet and his CSC Founders Award by his side.

With nighttime views of the White House and Washington Monument, CSC’s Annual Celebration once again featured a group of inspiring honorees:  Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida’s 25th Congressional District, was recognized with the inaugural Founders Award for Public Service, and Lynne Fletcher O’Brien and Andrew Sandler received the 2023 Founders Award for Vision.  The event was hosted by charismatic Broadway star and CSC Champion Telly Leung, known for his star turn as Aladdin in the Disney Broadway musical as well as star roles in Rent, Allegiance, and In Transit. The joyful and heartfelt performer regaled the audience with moving and empowering renditions of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and a special twist on the iconic ballad “Hero.”

Watch Coach Rivera’s acceptance remarks:

About the Cancer Support Community

The Cancer Support Community is a global nonprofit that uplifts and strengthens people impacted by cancer. We are dedicated to fostering a community where people find connection, compassion, and knowledge.  We provide professionally led support and navigation services, along with social connections and award-winning education— when, where and how impacted individuals prefer throughout their cancer experience. These resources are available at 190 Cancer Support Community, Gilda’s Club, and healthcare partner locations as well as online and over the phone —all at no cost.  We amplify the voices of those impacted by cancer through research and advocacy and create solutions that break down barriers to care and close the healthcare gap for communities whose members are disproportionately affected by cancer.


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