DALLAS — Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks are a victorious group with multiple Super Bowl wins, division titles, and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions. However, one of their greatest victories came Friday, April 27 at the Children's Cancer Fund annual gala.
For the first time in the event's 30 years, dubbed the "Sweet 30th Anniversary," the gala did not have to play an in memoriam video. In short, none of the past or present honored survivors, called "models" at the event, succumbed to cancer.
"That means everything," current Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott said. "What that means is that shows faith. That shows hope and that shows where we're trying to go and we're trying to beat cancer."
Prescott was part of the celebrity escorts of 22 featured pediatric cancer patients who put on a fashion show every year. The five to 15-year-olds wore fashions from Dillard's with RSC Productions and coordination from the Katy Sky Group., ages
Roger Staubach, who led the Cowboys to two Super Bowl wins in the 1970s en route to the Hall of Fame, has been one of the co-chairs of the gala since its 1988 inception. In the late 1980s, leukemia and lymphoma were virtual death sentences for kids. Now, the tables have turned.
"Children's cancer, leukemia, the survival rate is probably up into the 80 percentile," Staubach said at a Children's Cancer Fund event in January. "Back when we first got started it was way down there. So, that's really encouraging. But Children's Medical Center, they just do a fantastic job over here and the Children's Cancer Fund."
Troy Aikman, a three-time Super Bowl champion, became a co-chair in 1997 at Staubach's request. His first gala, which were originally luncheons until 2016, blew away the Hall of Fame quarterback's expectations.
"I was blown away and I told them at that moment that if they ever wanted me to continue to be a part of it, I'd be happy to do it," Aikman said. "Fortunately for me, they've asked me every year and I keep coming back. Now, it's a dinner, but it's no less impactful and we honor these kids. It's really special, and of course, a lot of money being raised for pediatric cancer research. It's pretty cool."
Aikman called the lack of an in memoriam video a "huge milestone" in the event's history.
Said Aikman: "That means everything. I think that any of us who have children can empathize with those who have children who are inflicted with cancer and what that entails and the treatments and the heartbreak. And we've had too many heartbreaks at this event. We honor those kids. Tonight, the fact that we're not going to go through that is a huge milestone for us."
The 30th gala also saw the first time involvement of the Tony Romo family. The four-time Pro Bowler and his wife, Candice, couldn't find time during his playing career for the event due to off-season scheduling conflicts. Nonetheless, CCF Executive Director of Development Jennifer Arthur persisted and asked the Romos if they would be available. With Romo's retirement in 2017, Candice became a co-chair for the 30th gala while Tony was the event's "guest DJ."
For Candice, her extreme sympathy for the parents of the suffering pediatric oncology patients is why her heart beats for the event.
"I'm a mother of three young boys," said Candice. "So, to put myself into some of these parents' shoes who are having to get the news that it's cancer and go through these really harsh treatments, it just feels of course I'll be a part of this event. I could just as easily be on the other side of the situation."
Tony appreciates the effort his wife has put into the event over 2018.
"My wife has worked really hard for months on this," Tony said. "It's a great cause and feel fortunate to be here."
The great cause always brings out the "sweetest smiles" among the kids, according to Arthur.
Said Arthur: "They spend the day getting runway ready and reuniting with their friends backstage, and when the spotlight comes on, you will see some of the sweetest smiles. This is a night they have looked forward to all year. The grand finale, which features CCF models from the past 30 years, is one of the most incredible moments of the evening."
Among the celebrity escorts was Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones, who escorted Ewing sarcoma patient Zachary Goldminz down the runway. Jones enjoyed spending time backstage with Goldminz.
"He developed a plan," Jones said. "He wanted to be the best team walking down the runway, and that's exactly what we did. We did a nice little dance, went underneath the cheerleaders, and he caught a perfectly thrown fade route by me -- I'm not taking credit -- but it was a really great catch by him."
Since its 1982 inception, CCF has awarded nearly $8 million in grants as the group endeavors to partially relieve the burden of acquiring and administering funds for childhood cancer treatment at Children's Health and selected research at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
"It's not about when cancer defeats us because cancer doesn't always mean cancer defeats us," said Prescott. "But what it means is it's about us showing the research and showing the way that we're moving forward and showing the positivity through this nasty disease."
For more on the Cowboys, be sure to follow Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.