ATLANTA - The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl celebrated 50 years of football in Atlanta this week as UCF and Auburn prepare for Monday's game. But what many don't realize, is the impact those 50 years of charitable giving has made on our community.
About $22 million has been distributed to over 80 charitable organizations making the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl the most charitable bowl game.
Someone touched by that charity is a young cancer patient who's fighting spirit is second to none and whose current treatment program is closely tied to Atlanta's football heritage.
“My mom says I have always been strong and stubborn, but when you have cancer it makes you even braver and more strong,” said Ethan Daniels.
Daniels’ mind is clearly very strong. His body, however, is not. He is one of the more than 4,000 children diagnosed with cancer every year.
"He came to me and said I have this lump on my head, feel it. When I felt it, it was certainly alarming," said Ethan's mother, Kelli Daniels.
Since being diagnosed with B Cell Lymphoblastic lymphoma back in March, Ethan has had a long road.
“It’s like my second home. Yes, I have made friends. That makes me feel good. That I have friends who understand what I am going through,” Ethan said.
He even counts the doctors and nurses at the Aflac Cancer Center among his best friends now.
"Some nurse are silly and fun, while some Oncologist are very serious,” said Ethan.
He spends time learning to play the guitar with his friend Sam and collects lucky beads that help him pass the time. Time spent in rooms hooked up to machines, something no 11-year-old grilled-cheese-loving boy should have to endure.
Ethan and his family have great hope and sports is playing a big part in creating a positive outlook for a cure. He is on a clinical trial made possible in part by the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
“If the researchers can't do their jobs, the oncologists can't do theirs, and kids like my Ethan can't fight and beat this cancer and win their battles,” said Kelli Daniels.
Only four percent of all federal research money goes toward curing childhood cancer, so the $600,000 raised by the Peach Bowl over the past three years is crucial to patients and families.
“My family is a house divided. My mom is a fan of Georgia, my dad is a fan of Arkansas, and my nana is a fan of Alabama. I’m cheering for them all, but except for the orange teams,” said Ethan.
Not a bad idea when you live in Georgia.
Ethan will have plenty of football to watch over the holidays, and a loving family of medical professionals working overtime to make sure 2018 is a year of happiness free of cancer.
“I love you guys to the moon and back,” said Ethan.
Young Ethan is wiser than even he realizes. He continues to fight and strengthen every day.
Some of the images in this story were provided by the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and Aflac Cancer Center.