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For Packers punter Pat O'Donnell, working with the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation starts with his late father

Kendra Meinert
Green Bay Press-Gazette
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Packers punter Pat O'Donnell, right, partnered with Lake Louie Brewing in Arena to donate a portion of proceeds from sales of Lake Louie’s Hang Time Pale Ale to the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation. He launched the fundraiser in November at Station 1 Brewing Co. in Suamico.

When Pat O’Donnell temporarily moved into Mason Crosby’s basement after signing with the Green Bay Packers in March, the punter and kicker bonded over more than just laughs from spoofing the bunk beds scene from "Step Brothers" on social media.

They also discovered a common cause.

It was Crosby who introduced O’Donnell to the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation’s 50th annual Lombardi Golf Classic in June at North Hill Country Club in Menomonee Falls. Crosby has been involved with the charity golf outing since his rookie season in Green Bay in 2007.

O’Donnell, who spent his first eight seasons with the Chicago Bears, learned through that event Lombardi had died of colon cancer in 1970 at age 57. That was when O'Donnell knew he wanted to do more with the foundation that bears the name of the legendary Packers coach.

He lost his own dad to colon cancer in 2017 after an 11-year fight.

“I thought it was a no-brainer to join forces with them and try to do some good,” O’Donnell said.

Through 6 p.m. Dec. 31, fans who make a donation of $10 or more to the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation will have a shot at winning two tickets and two pregame sideline passes to the Detroit Lions-Packers game at Lambeau Field on Jan. 8 as part of fundraiser hosted by O’Donnell and the nonprofit. An autographed jersey and helmet from O’Donnell are also up for grabs through the event at go.cauzeo.com/lombardi.

Last month, O'Donnell celebrated the release of Lake Louie’s Hang Time Pale Ale with a launch party at Station 1 Brewing Co. in Suamico, where $1 from every pint went to the foundation. There were Kick Cancer T-shirts and a raffle for jerseys signed by Packers running back AJ Dillon, Crosby and O’Donnell.

A friend of O’Donnell’s at Stormhouse Brewery in his home state of Florida suggested bringing the appropriately named Hang Time to Wisconsin and worked with Lake Louie Brewing in Arena in southwestern Wisconsin to make it happen. (Beer drinkers will also find it at Woodman’s.)

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O'Donnell says his dad 'always motivated me to chase my dreams'

Green Bay Packers place kicker Mason Crosby, middle, celebrates making the game-winning field goal against the New England Patriots as he leaves the field with long snapper Jack Coco, left, and punter Pat O'Donnell Oct. 2 at Lambeau Field.

Helping the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation in its mission to raise funds for cancer research and treatment programs is a way to honor his dad, Terence O’Donnell, who was a longtime coach known as “Coach Terry” in Palm Beach County, Florida.

“My dad was an amazing human being. He raised me to stay out of trouble, and I gravitated to sports really early on, so he always pushed that I was involved in something after school and really stressed the importance of my academics,” O’Donnell said. “He always motivated me to chase my dreams, my aspirations.”

Terence O’Donnell coached his son in soccer until he was 15. Pat O’Donnell went on to play travel soccer and then kicked for his high school football team. He got a football scholarship to the University of Cincinnati for four years and then transferred to the University of Miami for his graduate school year to be closer to his dad when he was sick.

“You don’t really know how much time you have left with someone, so I thought it was really important for me to go back down there, to hang out with him for a little bit. He came to as many games as he possibly could,” O’Donnell said.

He’s thankful his dad was able to see him achieve as many milestones in his career as he did during his 11 years with cancer, including being drafted by the Bears in 2014. His family’s journey with cancer has given him perspective for what it’s like for others, and there’s a sense of empathy that comes with that.

“It’s pretty much people, a community, being behind you and encouraging you each and every day with the treatments and chemotherapy and the surgeries. It’s not easy,” he said. “Every time there’s a bump in the road, the people and the support system behind you are the most important.

“Anytime I know someone’s going through it, I try to do as much as I can, and that’s the reason why I feel so compelled to spread awareness and always be behind some kind of cancer research wherever I go.”

Since moving to Green Bay, O’Donnell, his wife, Shelby, their 2-year-old daughter and 3-month-old son have settled into a home of their own in Howard. He credits the Crosbys taking them in for those first three weeks and showing them around town with helping to make them feel so at home. The two families get together often for play dates and other kid-friendly gatherings.

“It’s been great for my wife. She loves the community. She loves the environment. She’s from a small town in Pennsylvania, so it’s been a really easy transition to say the least to be here in Green Bay.”

They’re discovering all the community has to offer, including church services, family swims at the YMCA and the convenience of nearby dining.

“Life changes a little bit when you have two kids under 2, so we really do appreciate Rustique (Pizzeria + Lounge) being available in Suamico," O'Donnell said.

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