Matthew Stafford…from the Inside Out

This journey has totally taken its toll on me. I have aged, I am out of shape, I am tired, I am scared, I am angry, and I am so sad. When I think of what it has done to me, I realize having a child with a disease that has no cure, takes a toll on the entire family. So for us that family, includes my son Will, someone I don’t say much about, not because there isn’t much to say, but because thinking about being away from Will does something to me that is hard to put into words.

When Will was born he was in the NICU, he couldn’t eat and drink and breathe at the same time. He was there for a couple of weeks and every night when we left the hospital I would cry the entire way home from the hospital. I swore to myself, once he got out of the hospital, I wouldn’t leave him over-night again until he was ready, and I didn’t, not for three years, not until his sister was born. I’m not sure if it was the separation at birth or just some kind of special bond between the two of us, but we stuck together.

There isn’t a bad thing I could tell you about my son. He’s special. Every teacher he’s ever had has told me this, my friends tell me this, Faith tells me this. He is an amazingly selfless little boy. He is kind, and caring, and he loves people in a way that is indescribable. After his father and I divorced he asked me, do you think you will ever get remarried. My honest answer was, if I can find someone who loves me the way you love people, I will.

Will is moments away from tears at every moment of every day. He misses me and he misses the life we used to have. Monday Movie night, Tuesday taco’s, Sunday fun-day. We stuck together. We were a strong little family, really we still are, just in a different way. At night when I tell him good night, he tries hard to hold it together, to be tough, and not cry…and usually he does okay. Little does my boy know I hang up the phone and go into the bathroom and cry, almost every night. One of the moms told me it gets easier, its been many days, its doesn’t.

What is most amazing about Will is he never ever complains, he never asks me to come home, he never gets mad at his sister. He is graceful and accepting. Before Faith got sick, I was working, money wasn’t something we had to worry about, we vacationed all the time. Chicago or Orlando…that’s where we went. Will loved vacationing, and often talks about the great times we had. But he never, ever complains about how much our lives have changed. We used to have a really nice car a new Expedition, now I drive a car that is ten years older than he is, and it has no TV…and it looks like a car a grandma would be driving, one day his friend asked why his mom was driving that old ugly car, Will replied, because I loved it, so she traded our other car for it. When he got in the car he apologized on behalf of his friend, and said, I am just thankful we have a car.

I could not be more proud of him. But I worry. I don’t want Will to remember his childhood as years of being separated from his family. I need him to make happy memories. Last night, is a night that he will remember forever. And it will never, not ever be erased from my memory. It was a night that was supposed to be all about Faith, funny, for me the greatest impact was how my son was effected by the evening.

Faith was asked to represent Mott at the Woodson, Griese, Hutchinson Champs for Children Gala. Charles Woodson has a research fund that raises money for research to find cures for kids like Faith. It was an amazing evening and Faith did a great job. She was the star of the event, even though we were surrounded by celebrity athletes. I was very proud. But, there happened to be another star sitting at our table that night, the quarterback for the Detroit Lions, Matt Stafford.

If you know anything about me, you know I think being a celebrity or an amazing athlete doesn’t make you a star. Being a star is about who you are…not about what you do. Sure, when you look at what Matt Stafford did on the field last year, it would be hard to find someone who wouldn’t call him a super star athlete…but in my eyes, stars are made from the inside out, and rest assured Lions fans your quarterback is as much of a star inside as he is on the outside.

At the beginning of the evening a very beautiful young woman sat down at our table, she introduced herself as Kelly. Faith was immediately in love. After the athletes in attendance were introduced Matt Stafford came and sat next to her at the table. Immediately, Will’s entire disposition changed. Suddenly, there was life in my sons eyes, and a smile, a really excited happy smile that I had not seen for months.

Right away Matt could tell that my son was a fan, he stuck his hand out and introduced himself. The next hour or so Will asked all kinds of questions, who do you like to throw the ball to the most, did you ever play other sports, at one point they were talking about candy. Matt’s girlfriend had Faith just as engaged, they talked about nails, and dresses, she was delightful. Beautiful inside and out.

Part of the Gala included a live auction where there were big ticket items raffled to the highest bidder. I noticed my son pointing out a package that included a trip to Chicago with tickets to a Monday Night football Game to see the Lions and the Bears a package donated by Mike Tirico. Dhani Jones was the auctioneer and asked Stafford to beef the package up by adding some tickets to the game. He agreed and the bidding began. Will was excited to see who won the package and watched intently to see who was going to see his Lions play in Chicago, suddenly, the Lions own quarterback began bidding on the package, Dhani teased about being able to watch and play at the same time, saying I know you were good last year, but man that is talent. I assumed he was driving the price of the package up, all the money goes to Mott, I thought it was incredibly cool of him. As the bidding continued he wasn’t backing off…he was in it, he wanted to win that package, and had I known why, I’m certain, I would have been in tears. Somewhere in the $15k range Matt Stafford was the owner of the MNF package, the crowd laughed, but moments later, that same crowd would be giving the Mott newcomer a standing ovation. As he won the package he turned to Will and said, there you go buddy, you go to Chicago, and take your family. The look on my sons face, I will never forget. His chin began to quiver, he was about to cry. He quickly jumped up and gave Matt a hug, and thanked him over and over again.

Word traveled quickly to Dhani and the great news was shared with the rest of the crowd. Everyone was pretty taken back, an incredibly generous gesture for a young man who clearly understands giving back to his community. But, what I am certain the rest of the room didn’t understand is this… Matt had asked Will to look at the auction items and tell him what thing he would pick if he could pick one. He set out to make a difference for Will, someone who suffers so much loss from Faith illness. Someone who is so often is overlooked in this mess.

That entire night was about Faith, and about children like Faith who deal with illness and fight for their lives everyday. No one could have missed that. What wasn’t as easy to see, and what people who are in my every day life often miss is how Will is no less effected by Faith’s illness.

Quarterbacks are probably the most influential player among all team sports in the success or failure of the team. I think they have to see it all…Detroit Fans, your Quarterback, he see’s it. He was able to give Will a night he will never forget. He was able to heal some of the hurt, and give Will something to look forward to.

I wanted to tell Matt Stafford how touched I was, I wanted him to understand the impact he had on Will. I wanted him to understand his impact on me. There was no way, I wouldn’t be able to, I work really hard not to cry in front of people. And no way could I even begin to tell him now touched I was.

As I said goodnight to Will that night, he was teary. I said, It won’t be much longer we will be home, he said no Mom I just don’t want this night to end, it’s the best night of my life. When we got off the phone, I didn’t need to hide in the bathroom, I didn’t even want to cry. I went to sleep thinking about how happy my son was, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to do that.

So as football season comes along, and you see #9 from the Detroit Lions take the field remember, your looking at a superstar athlete…from the inside out.

51 thoughts on “Matthew Stafford…from the Inside Out

  1. That is an amazimg story , what a generous man. Will is a great kid and deserves this SO MUCH . I’m sure Faith would agree. Lindsey and Will share a common bond….no one would really understand like those two

  2. Awesome story. I’m a huge Detroit Lions fan, and this made me a bigger fan of Stafford. I hope a cure can be found for your son, and you can find peace in this journey.

  3. It is nice and genuine to see Matt do what he did. I wish more athletes would give that personal attention to those in need!!!

    1. It actually happens quite a lot. But you won’t hear about it when you have other players being caught for heinous crimes. There is more money in airing the filth than there is airing the beautiful.

      J.T. Thomas of the Bears did something like this twice. Met the mother of a girl who had spina bifida at church and found out that none of the guys at her school had asked her to prom. So, with the girl’s mothers permission of course, he showed up and asked her to her senior prom. Went to it, danced with the girl, and made the girl feel like she was the most important person in her school.

      Then a year later he met another boy at a Chicago Bears Autograph signing event. Now, mind you, J.T. Thomas is a nobody. He was drafted in the 6th round and hasn’t played a down yet. But this young boy recognized him and asked for his autograph. After talking to the boy (Anthony) for a little while, he had found out that Anthony had never been to a football game. So Thomas somehow acquired 2 Super Bowl tickets, drove up from Florida to Chicago, picked up Anthony in Chicago, drove the 3 hours to Indy, watched the entire game with him, then drove him back home to Chicago.

      So, sometimes, you can be a star on the inside even if you are not a star on the outside.

      1. Hey this is all true.Just looked it up. haha thanks for sharing I like reading up on people like this. especially cause this JT guy probably doesnt make millions per year so its crazy he spends money like this. Good guy just like Stafford.

  4. Now that I’m done crying I can see to type this comment. Matt Stafford is an angel on earth who has given my great-nephew a once in a lifetime gift. WOW!!! I can’t wait to talk to Will about it when I see him again – maybe I won’t wait and just call him up after school today. Mary Ann, God puts certain people in our paths who make a true gift of love by giving from their heart. (Matt also gave from his pockets, but his heart will always hold the most weallth!!!) Kissy Grandma had the hardest time keeping this from us but she did! When there is love, there is all that’s needed, and you, Faith and Will truly know the depth of that statement. XOXOXO Aunt Pat

  5. Thank you for sharing this story. Quite an emotional story and wonderful read to make me smile for the day. There’s not enough stories out there about athletes giving back. It’s just great your son gets to experience something that will make lifetime memories!

  6. Unbelivable human kindness, thank you for sharing that wonderful story and may God Bless you, Faith, Will and our QB#9. All of you are heros in your own special way….

  7. I was raised in Chicago and you know how loyal we are with our sports teams …. BUT now I am Detroit Lions fan! It touched my heart that Will had a magical moment amidst all the challenges facing your family now. Prayers and happy thoughts coming to you from Virginia

  8. Wonderful, wonderful story – thank you for sharing that. I know from experience about the children who are NOT the center of the crisis and my heart goes out to Will. Sounds like you are the perfect mother for him – that you are clear in how it affects him. I am sure he feels it from you – don’t worry. You will meet many angels on this path, Matt Stafford being one of them. Much love to your whole family and many prayers that you are able to all be together again for a long time!
    Kathy, another mom, in California

  9. What a absolutely great story to a family that deserves it. God is Great! I am so happy for Will and your family.

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  11. I found parts of this Article on Espn, and had to come read the whole story. It is a struggle watching someone you love go through such pain. It is also such a relief when you get to see those people happy, even if just for a moment. I have always been a Lions fan, born and raised in Lansing. Matthew Stafford has always seemed to be a stand up guy, but now I know he truly is. I am going to pass this story along to everyone I can. I just wanted to let you know we’re all out here, and we have your back. Love from Texas.

  12. Thank you for sharing this amazing story. I feel oddly guilty that I happened upon Faith’s journey due to a random article on Yahoo, but I am glad that I did. My little one was severely burned when he was five years old and so many parts of your blog make all the sense in the world to me (particularly the entry about the children’s unit in any hospital, I still tell my friends they should volunteer if for no other reason than to gain perspective) and I certainly feel some small amount of your pain. Folks don’t fully appreciate that there are beautiful, innocent, sweet caring children- just like the ones they have at home- fighting for their lives on a daily basis in hospitals across the world, with more courage than I know I could muster as an adult. It’s heartbreaking. My prayers are with Faith and your family.

  13. This story touched my heart deeply. This truly wonderful little boy so deserved to have something really special happen to him, and thanks to a wonderful human being like Matt Stafford he got it. This family is so deserving of good things happening to them. I will be praying for them and for little Faith’s full recovery. Years ago the doctors said the only thing that would save my moms life was a heart transplant.Every treatment had failed. The doctors at Stanford said a new drug became available that worked wonders in about 1/3 of the patients. My mom was one of the 1/3 patients it worked for.That was almost 20 years ago, and today she still has her own heart.My point is for this wonderful family to never give up, as a miracle cure for little faith could be right around the corner.God bless this beautiful family and Matt Stafford for being a real hero to a very deserving little boy.

  14. Matt Stafford just elevated himself immensely in my eyes, what an extremely genuinely nice person. Too often these athlete’s get caught up in the moment of “hey I’m rich” it’s nice to see someone giving back to the community.

  15. May God always bless your wonderful family. Your story brought me to tears. I am going to school to become a RN and your story just solidified my goal to help others. God bless you all!

  16. Just remember – god is ALWAYS with you. All u have to do is talk to him. Either outloud or in your mind. He already knows your thoughts and feelings but he’s always there for his children when we need him. Just ask him for the daily strength and resolve needed to handle what life throws at you and I promise u he will help u in the ways u need it most when u need it most. U can even pray with your children which will strengthen the bonds between u and god and also your children. Doesn’t matter if u don’t believe it will do any good just try it if u really feel so desperate lost and alone that u can’t find your way back. And keep the faith. There’s no point in worrying about the future cuz there’s nothing we can do until it happens to us. Just keep learning and growing every day and take it all one day at a time. God is and always will be just a heart beat away. God bless u all and may his will be done. Amen.

  17. That story is what makes the world a wonderful place! I will remember this while enjoying the upcoming football season! Go Detroit!

  18. Incredible story!!! Read the article initially because I am a lifetime Lions fan. So glad I took the time. I will be praying for you and your family. I certainly understand the feelings you have for the impact on your son. I have wrestled with those same feelings as it relates to my son (also named Will) and my wife’s struggle with cancer. Take heart. You are not alone. Take care and God bless.

  19. I’m not a football fan but now I won’t forget the name of Matt Stafford. So happy for Will to be treated with such compassion and generosity by someone who just as easily could have patted him on the head and been done with his ‘celebrity duties’.

  20. Hello I read your story and I was moved. You reminded me of my mother who raised three kids by herself unselfishly. I thought I understood this growing up but as a single father with 3 kids i am learning there is no EASY button being a parent. You are obviously a great mom with children that are take after their mother. I pray the best of everything for your family. Enjoy the game!

  21. As an alumni of UGA, it makes me chest swell with pride to read this. One thing our head coach, Mark Richt, tries to impress on the young men he coaches is that it is not about them, but rather how they can affect others lives in a positive manner. I have seen Matthew, & many others, put that into action on so many occasions – not only around Athens, but across th globe. God bless you & your family, & Thank You Matthew for being such a great face for our University. Go Dawgs!

  22. Your story brought tears to my eyes. I have a one year old son with Down syndrome who has spent many weeks in Milwaukee’s Children’s Hospital. He has four older brothers were at home and there were many days I didn’t get to kiss them good night. May God bless you and your children and all of the Matt Staffords out there who step up to brighten up a child’s life.

  23. Amazing story! Touched my heart! I am sitting at work crying! God bless will, faith, Matt stafford, And will and faiths mother!

  24. UGA Coach Mark Richt instills in all his team members the gift of giving back to the community. We, the fans of UGA, are very proud of Matt Stafford. Coach Richt would expect no less from this young man. Once a DAWG, always a DAWG! Go DAWGS!

  25. Amazing story! I’m a twenty year old war veteran who has learned to keep his emotions bottled up pretty well but I must say this story made me break down and cry. Thank you for sharing this piece with all of us! It makes me feel like I should do more to help influence people’s lives for the better. God bless you Will and Faith!

  26. I had the honor of meeting Matt Stafford long before he was a lion, back when he played QB for my local college team, UGA. He was an outstanding person then, and Im glad to see that he continues to be a great person on the inside as well as the outside. To me he will always be a “bulldawg” and my favorite moment is watching them beat the gators! Its good to see that the integrity that he had is still there, even with the fame!

  27. I grew up 30 minutes from Athens Georgia and UGA but I’ve lived in Louisiana for the past 29 years. Still a DAWGS fan even in LSU country. I watched Matt Stafford every chance I got while he was at UGA and always thought he was a good guy but this goes above and beyond. I can’t help but think Mark Richt had at least something to do with that. Both of these men display God’s love and compassion. Sports, and our world in general, need a lot more men like this for our children to look up to.

  28. I have just read some of your blogs and I cannot stop the tears; they are tears of sadness and happiness. I am the afternoon house keeper on your floor and I just wanted to let you and your family know how absolutely beautiful you all are. Faith…as well as your family have had an enormous impact on everyone…right down to your custodians lol. There is a purpose here for all of us and my God…yours and your families is beyond amazing…you bring a light and a hope to everyone you cross. Just the mere presence of your family and faith give hope to all those that surround you. Each and everyone of us at the hospital adore your family…it is very obvious that you were all ordained for greatness and to fill others with love and compassion even unknowingly. You are all in my prayers as well as my families…my daughter…Elianna who is 5 said she must cone to the hospital to meet your family and faith. I have had discussions to my family and daughter about how beautiful and amazing you all are. You share a glow and light that many of us see and feel without even speaking to you. I hope the best for your family. GOD BLESS


  29. Wow, that is an amazing story! I just found your blog through Lil Blue Boo and am in awe of your spirit. You are amazing. You will be in my thoughts and daily prayers now!!!

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