CLEVELAND — Shon Coleman remembers what it's like to be in their shoes.
The Browns' rookie offensive lineman and cancer survivor spent Tuesday afternoon at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, delivering gifts to patients — including those in the pediatric oncology unit — in the name of the holiday season.
"I was in the same position they were at one point in time in my life and for football players or famous people to reach out it really changes the game as far as how I looked at everything," he said. "It's a great moment for them to see us give back."
Coleman, the former Auburn standout who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010 and cleared by doctors to return to football in spring of 2012, and tight end Randall Telfer took center stage, passing out toys and smiling for pictures.
"Given where I am in my position," Telfer said, "I've been blessed beyond my wildest dreams I just feel — not necessarily obligated — but it's the least I can do to give back as much as I can to people who have been in my shoes before."
The visit precedes the Browns First and Ten Toy Drive at FirstEnergy Stadium prior to Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Fans are encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys for kids in need from Cuyahoga County.
Members of the US Marine Corps will help collect donations, including monetary contributions, as fans enter the stadium beginning at 11 a.m. to support Toys for Tots. The First and Ten Toy Drive is part of the Browns' continued effort to lift spirits of those in need throughout the holiday season.
That was the mission Tuesday as Coleman and Telfer walked the halls and met with patients and their parents.
"I think it's neat because it makes them feel special. It just gets to be about them, they get to be the special person, they're the one that gets all the attention," said Michele Rothstein, University Hospitals' Kids Kicking Cancer program coordinator.
"One of the kids up on the rooftop, she was there by herself before anyone else was there and she said I've never met somebody famous before, this is the best day ever and it was just pretty incredible."
And of Coleman — whose story of battling past cancer has been well-documented — Rothstein said the rookie serves as an inspiration.
"I think it really means a lot to these kids that someone else has gone through it," she said.
"One of the moms that was here last time, I mentioned to her one of the football players was a cancer survivor and she was like, 'No way — he's normal, he plays football now. That's amazing.' And I think it gives parents hope, it gives them a sense of, 'my kid is going to get through this, this is going to be OK.'"
The Browns are dedicated to #give10 through the team's First and Ten initiative. Launched in June 2014, the Cleveland Browns First and Ten campaign is the team's community program, established to inspire fans to volunteer in and help their communities throughout the world by volunteering for 10 hours each year.
Through First and Ten, the Browns are the only NFL club to promote a long-term volunteering program that unifies the team and its entire fan base, with the goal of impacting every individual's city across the globe, as well as the franchise's local community. All Browns fans are encouraged to join the volunteering effort by signing the First and Ten pledge on the team's website and by sharing their stories with #give10.
UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital is a full-service children's hospital and pediatric academic medical center with experts in 16 medical divisions and 11 surgical specialties who offer nationally ranked care not available at other institutions in the region, including a center dedicated to adolescent and young adult cancer treatment and Northeast Ohio's only single-site provider of advanced maternal fetal medicine and neonatology services.
As an affiliate of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the only Level I Pediatric Trauma Center in the region, UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital offers access to novel therapies, advanced technologies and clinical discoveries long before they are available nationwide.
Rainbow pediatric specialists – all of whom also serve on the faculty at the School of Medicine – are engaged in today's most advanced clinical research and are widely regarded as the best in the nation – and in some specialties, the best in the world.
You can learn more at www.Rainbow.org.