The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on January 28, 1996 · Page 40
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 40

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Sunday, January 28, 1996
Page 40
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Each Super fowl ^pM l ,g^]pp9^^^ honors pro athletes and amateur coaches who have made important contributions to society. ^faJi ^'h^ffflw'levq^l 1£eir,tirJ| and talents^ , to a variety of efforts, from housing the homeless to securing college * f * ? f scholarships for disa^ntag^ ' „- ^ , r ^ , r C"J?' MostCaringAthletesL ;/":/'. ™ / V:> ^ baseball, basketbalCgolf and tennis. Each receives $1,000 for a favorite *?* charity. "The athletes recogrjized here serve not out of a sense of obligation '• or for recognition, but to make a lasting contribution arid, hopefully, to inspire others to join them," says Kevin Johnson of the Phoenix Suns, this year's honorary chairman and a 1995 winner. The judges were USA WEEKEND columnist George Foreman, CBS Sports analyst Mary Carillo, baseball ';,"' great Nolan Ryan, Wornens Sports Foundation Head Donna Ldpianq and ' ; ! USA WEEKEND editor Marcia Bullard. Mo«t Caring jMt '~ " ~ , WJ;vUj Most Caring Coach This year, for the first time, we asked you tq najne Jh^MSA'fi Mosf Caj|ngp, Coach, a true mentor wJip nurtures kids ^qtrj t pjvfwi "** * te ^ M - Moii^ "- than2,OWread^re^nomiriated,^|yin|a|p " and honorable mentions feature*} in yiis.specii Ml .W^^ ?•&*%£ iy THE WINNERS: BOOMER ESIASON FOOTBALL Boomer Esiason I t's a question with no clear answer. If you discover your child has an incurable illness, what do you do? When quarterback Boomer Esiason faced that nightmare three years ago, his first instinct was to retire from football and hole up with his family. His second instinct — the one he follows now—was to attack. In the three years since his son, Gunnar, now 4, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, Esiason has devoted his time and enormous energy to raising money to fight the disease. Cystic fibrosis is an incurable genetic lung disease that causes thick mucus to clog the lung walls so they become a haven for bacteria. The median survival age for CF patients is 29 years. Boomer is 34; he wants his son to outlive him. "What happens if a cure comes and the lungs of these kids [have] deteriorated so much they can't benefit from it?" he says, glancing back at Gunnar, who's steering his remote-controlled car wildly around the polished hardwood floors of Esiason's home in Manhasset, N.Y. Or, Esiason adds, what if Gunnar contracts a lung infection — common in those with CF — that proves immune to antibiotics? Gunnar requires physical therapy twice a day. Often Esiason is the one who lays his son on the black vinyl slant board and pounds his back and sides and chest for 20 minutes to loosen the mucus that fills the boy's lungs. Gunnar is doing well, but, Esiason says, "[My wife] Cheryl and I have to pre- FOOTBALL: HONORABLE MENTIONS • Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys: for his Oklahoma City disaster relief efforts • DJ. Johnson, Atlanta Falcons: dlsadvantaged war veterans • Eugene Robinson, Seattle Seahawks: abused children pare ourselves that he could get very sick any time." The Esiasons also have a 3-year-old daughter, Sydney, who does not have the disease. After Gunnar was diagnosed in 1993, Esiason decided to retire. (He joined the New York Jets in 1993, but was a free agent at press time.) He wanted to be free to spend as much time as possible with his only son. He changed his mind. After all, a winning quarterback gets a lot more attention than a retired quarterback, and Esiason wanted attention, tons of it — not for himself, but for cystic fibrosis. He spent 18 months talking to doctors and 4 USA WEEKEND • Jan. 26-28, 1W6 COVER PHOTOGRAPH BY BRAD TRENT

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