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Football Star Eli Manning Scores $2.9 Million for Children's Hospital
Manning and his wife, Abby, have helped raise $2.9 million for the outpatient clinic at Blair E. Batson Children's Hospital -- the only children's cancer care center in Mississippi.
The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., reports Manning does more than raise money. The 30-year-old athlete visits children in the hospital every summer. However, there are certain strings attached. He insists on no media and no doctors.
"The only thing he asked was that someone go with him to help carry the boxes of gifts he had brought for the children," James Keeton, vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, tells the newspaper. "He wanted one-on-one time with them all. He said he would sign whatever they wanted. He wanted to play video games with the ones who felt like it ... anything to make them smile and feel better for a little while.
"That's about as classy as it gets. This guy is a superstar in the NFL, a Super Bowl most valuable player. You don't see many of them wandering the halls of children's hospitals. I just don't know how much more fortunate we could be."
Keeton tells the Clarion-Ledger Manning started with a goal in 2007 of donating $2.5 million in five years. He's surpassed that goal by $400,000.
"That just doesn't happen in this day and time, whether you're trying to raise $50 million or $100,000," Keeton says. "You always set what you hope to do, but rarely do you get there."
Manning tells the newspaper it was a point of honor.
"Any time you put your name on something, you should want it to be done right," he says. "I said we could do this, and I wanted to be a man of my word."
That included keeping a promise he made when he entered professional sports after five years at the University of Mississippi. He promised to give back to the state.
Manning was 26 when started raising money for the hospital and visiting children. At first, he admits, he was nervous about visiting young cancer patients.
"I didn't really know what to say or what to do to make them feel better," he tells the Clarion-Ledger. "It left me feeling sort of helpless, to be honest."
Now he loves visiting the kids.
"It's never what I would call easy," he tells the newspaper. "You walk into a room and a child is sick ... he or she may not be feeling too good that day. They may be down. But what I've learned is, just do the best you can to get a smile out of them. And even though they may not say anything then -- I mean, kids can be shy -- afterward you hear from their parents that the visit meant so much and that their child hasn't stopped talking about it.
"And I try to do the same thing for the parents. It's a tough time for them. So anything I can do to lift the morale of the whole group is a good thing."
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