Cubs Starting Pitcher Jon Lester has a special story off the diamond. He was drafted in the second round of the 2002 draft, and quickly became a solid prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization. He made his debut on June 10th 2006, and began what was hopefully going to be a long great career in the MLB. But life happens. On August 27th, Lester was scratched with a sore back. Four days later, he underwent tests that indicated enlarged lymph nodes, and a few days later it was revealed that he had cancer. Fortunately, it was a treatable form of anaplastic large cell lymphoma. Imagine the shock of going on the DL for an achy back and that's the result. Jon would undergo treatment, and was able to return in 2007.
But Jon didn't sit back and say alls well that ends well. In 2011, he partnered with charity wines for a fundraiser to support the hutchinson cancer research center, Where he was treated in '07. From there, he and his founded NVRQT (Never Quit), dedicated to support kids with cancer. After Jon came back, he wanted to help others in need. Once him and his wife began having kids of their own, they realized the importance of taking a stand against pediatric cancer.
Jon is very active on the charity front. His charity has an annual fundraiser (NVRQT goes country), where Jon hosts festival games with fellow Cubs players. Last year, they raised $600,000 in that single night. He'll routinely visit with kids. Not just at Wrigley, as he'll make arrangements with out of town teams to meet with sick kids as he travels all over with the Cubs. In 2018, they had a movie screening fundraiser, playing the classic "The Sandlot." He does a lot of other cool things as well, I can't possibly list it all out.
From NVRQT's website, here's the story from Jon himself.
“On the heels of my return to baseball, I was approached by a number of cancer related organizations who were interested in my involvement. I was flattered, these were all very worthy causes, and I knew I wanted to do something to give back that had to do with cancer but I just wasn’t ready. Upon the birth of our first child, Hudson, I remember thinking that I couldn’t imagine my son going through what I went through, and suddenly my mission became clear. Alongside my wife, Farrah, we were going to raise funds and awareness for pediatric cancer research.
In 2012, Farrah and I launched NVRQT (Never Quit), in an effort to unite and inspire children battling cancer, and benefit the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation (PCRF). Our primary activation for the platform is something we call our “Road Rallies” where we host children going through treatment in away markets. I only pitch every fifth day, and when I’m on the road I’ve got the time to say a quick hello, take some pictures, and sign some autographs. Baseball was a great distraction for me when I was going through treatment, so if we can get these kids out of the hospital and over to the ballpark for a day to help get their minds off cancer, I want to make that happen. Now understanding that the kids would likely be more excited about meeting a player from their home team, I try and reach out to former teammates and friends of friends to join me in welcoming the kids on the field. I was amazed with how willing everyone was to help, and from these experiences we coined the phrase, “there are no rivalries in fighting pediatric cancer.” The program has been wildly successful, we’ve hosted kids and families all over the nation and I get the unique benefit of hearing their stories. The kids are so brave, so inspiring! Here I am trying to make an impact on their life and they’re the ones making an impact on mine. When we set out to give back we never expected there would be a reciprocal effect, but these kids keep me motivated and give me strength.
While the Road Rallies are great, awareness is only half the battle. Research is the only thing that will lead us to a cure, and it’s expensive. So Farrah and I decided we would host a signature event annually with the goal of raising as much money as we could. We’ve now hosted five NVRQT Nights with themes ranging from Hollywood Squares to Country Fairs, and each year we’ve surpassed the previous year’s contribution. In fact, last year we broke the million dollar mark for funds raised for PCRF, and we couldn’t be prouder of that. Farrah and I are fortunate enough to have a platform that people pay attention to, but our voice is not ours alone. We have a responsibility to all of those who came before us that aren’t with us today. We have a responsibility to our kids and to future generations. Cancer is not something anyone beats alone, so we hope to have more people join the NVRQT team in our fight.”
- Jon Lester, #34
Way to go Jon!