Have you ever smiled so hard your cheeks started hurting? There was plenty of that going around on Tuesday at University Hospital's Seidman Cancer Center.
Browns players Jabaal Sheard, Craig Robertson, John Hughes, Marlon Moore, Johnson Bademosi, Spencer Lanning and Billy Cundiff surprised cancer patients with gift bags, stocked with a Cleveland Browns-themed blanket and a notebook.
But it's the interactions that will be remembered forever.
"This honestly is making my year," said Harriet Williams, a 67-year-old breast cancer survivor, who was in for her yearly checkup. "I have no nails left because last Sunday's game was so stressful! I love this team."
Pam Cottos is battling an aggressive form of cancer. But she musters the strength every Sunday to throw on a number 16 autographed Josh Cribbs jersey, her favorite Browns player of all-time. Every time Brian Hoyer throws a deep pass, she's on the edge of her seat enthusiastically yelling. It's hard to ever find Cottos without Browns gear on. Her family has had season tickets since the 1970s. Not to her family's surprise, she wasn't much interested in talking about her courageous fight in cancer. Instead, Cottos was eager to give her opinion out on the Browns during our interview.
"I really want them to play well in the first half against the Steelers!" said Cottos. "And I'm really glad they are being patient with Duke Johnson Jr.. What's the rush?"
Perhaps the most excited patient to meet the players was Jimmy Ross, who happened to work for the Browns in the 1980s. Ross loaded up all the Browns' equipment onto 18-wheeler trucks for the drivable road trips. He fondly remembers a young special team's coordinator, Bill Cowher, and remembers forecasting him becoming a legendary coach one day.
"I can't put into words what this means to me," Ross said. "Seeing these young players reminds me of being young. I feel happy."
Browns kick returner Marlon Moore did try and put into words what this meant to him. In 2008, Moore lost his godsister, April Murphy, to breast cancer. Murphy was only 21-years-old. The news was devastating. Moore was extremely close to Murphy and it tore him up that he couldn't be at her side during his college football season at Fresno State.
A few months later, life got even heavier: Moore's father was diagnosed with liver cancer and the prognosis was bleak. When Moore's brother called him to break the news, Moore was so shocked he drove straight through a red light. His father passed shortly thereafter.
For obvious reasons, the month of October and the NFL's dedication to breast cancer awareness by having players wear pink, means the world to Moore. It's always been Moore's ritual to go and pray on the 25-yard line before every game, and it just so happens that's right where the league paints their pink ribbon logo. Through prayer and positive thoughts, Moore has turned his painful life experiences into smiles and laughs for others.
Moore mingled with the cancer patients, and just as important to him, their family members – who are also struggling emotionally. Moore ranks giving back to the community this way just as high as he does playing in an NFL game.
"Seeing the people we did today, they are the real fighters," said Moore. "Just seeing the look on their faces and knowing we give them some kind of strength and hope to keep fighting, it's priceless."