Packers tackle cancer awareness

Richard Ryman
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The Green Bay Packers will sell hats to raise cancer awareness beginning in October.

GREEN BAY – The surest way to defeat cancer is to catch it early. 

The Green Bay Packers, Bellin Health and Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation plan a joint campaign called "Packers vs. Cancer" to raise awareness about all cancers.

"Anytime we can create an awareness around cancer initiatives, we hope that our screening instances will just increase," said Jen McDonald, director of oncology for Bellin Health.  

The initiative includes the sale of specially designed hats beginning Oct. 10 and a game-day recognition of cancer survivors Oct. 22 at Lambeau Field, when the Packers host the New Orleans Saints. Five dollars from the sale of each hat, available through the Packers Pro Shop, will go to the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation.

"I think this will be very popular with our fans," Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said of the hat, which includes the Packers "G" logo and a screenprint of former Packers coach Vince Lombardi.

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During the Oct. 22 game, fans will receive a banner on which they can write the name of someone they know who was affected by cancer. 

Information on a "text-to-donate" effort will be announced later. Packers kicker Mason Crosby will participate in public service announcements and players will visit cancer patients in the hospital throughout the season.  

Jen McDonald of Bellin Health talks about the Packers vs. Cancer partnership Tuesday at Lambeau Field.

The NFL and all 32 teams have worked since October 2009 to raise awareness for various kinds of cancers, most notably breast cancer. October is national Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Packers and their partners expanded their initiative this year to include all cancers and screenings as necessary.

"There's always room for improvement," McDonald said. "What you can catch at stage zero or one, you're in a far better place than catching at stage three or four once you are symptomatic."

Previous breast cancer awareness programs with the NFL and Packers led to a noticeable increase in breast cancer awareness and higher rates of mammograms at Bellin, McDonald said.

Murphy said the NFL this year gave clubs more flexibility with their programs, so the Packers decided to include all forms of cancer. 

"We often hear from fans during the month of October about their stories and how cancer has affected them. We are looking forward to inviting our fans across the region, across the country, to be part of this Packers vs. Cancer initiative."

The Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation, named after the Pro Football Hall of Fame coach who died of colon cancer, funds cancer research and compassionate care.

Green Bay Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy talks about the Packers vs. Cancer initiative Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, at Lambeau Field.

"Vince Lombardi said that 'people who work together will win,' and together, through Packers vs. Cancer, we will be one step closer to winning the battle against cancer," said Ben Haas, foundation president-elect. 

The Packers will provide additional information on their website as the season progresses.

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