Five years removed his own battle with cancer, Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester joined with the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation to launch the NVRQT (Never Quit) campaign earlier this year. Among its events was a NVRQT Night at the House of Blues in Boston -- where he posed with teammates Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, and Will Middlebrooks for the photo above -- and with no time like the holidays to put things in proper perspective, we asked Lester to reflect on the first year of that experience.
By Jon Lester
During our first NVRQT season I got to meet dozens of kids fighting cancer. In Boston, Seattle and Los Angeles, the Red Sox and our NVRQT team arranged for families to come to the game so I could meet the kids. What stood out to me the most about the entire campaign was the resilience of the children. The kids wanted to talk baseball not cancer. Their eyes were bright, their determination strong and their outlook on the disease was all about the battle to be won. That’s exactly what I remember from 6 years ago: How to get through treatment and beyond cancer.
It took me 5 years to get to the point that I felt comfortable going back into a hospital. Whenever we visit kids the smell of the place still brings back some not-too-pleasant memories, but meeting the kids quickly changes all that. We do love meeting the kids, signing some balls and telling stories.
My 5 year cancer-free mark coincided with my son Hudson’s birth and Farrah and I decided it was time to give back. After meeting so many kids and their families we also saw the look in their parent’s eyes. There is a worry so pure and a fear so deep that we knew it was something we never wanted to go through.
Our cause would become children’s cancer research. I had helped out the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation years ago and we decided every penny NVRQT raised would go straight to them. PCRF provides grants to researchers around the country who are working on better treatments and real cures that will change care around the world. I recieved a LOT of support from teammates and fans when I was sick and the words of encouragement meant a lot during some of those long days.
The NVRQT (never quit) message, delivered on a baseball (or a wristband or patch) gives the kids something to hold on to and inspire them to fight today and get back on the field with friends as soon as possible. I know of little league teams who have signed the balls for pals, classmates who have signed them for kids and families who get the balls and hold a NVRQT baseball game in honor of a struggling sibling. It seems that the message and the ball are really well received.
This coming season we plan to meet with more kids across the country, we’ll hold another NVRQT Day at Fenway over the summer and once again have a NVRQT Night at the end of the season with fans and my teammates. This first NVRQT season was a great start to what we hope will be a continued effort to make every day better for kids fighting cancer and raising the crucial funds for research in this poorly supported area of science.
Farrah and I want to thank all of our friends and fans who have supported NVRQT this past year. NVRQT is the attitude I brought to cancer and the same determination I bring to this cause and frankly my job. Together I know we made a difference in 2012 and that impact will only grow in the years to come. I’m really looking forward to the 2013 season and have high expectations for both the Red Sox and NVRQT. Thank you all and Happy Holidays!
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