Seahawks QB Russell Wilson’s humanity when asked why he visits Seattle Children’s hospital every week
You want Russell Wilson to throw four touchdown passes and for the Seahawks to upset the undefeated Rams.
Wilson, of course, wouldn’t mind that, either.
“It’s bigger than just the game,” Wilson said.
“It’s a lot bigger than that.”
“It” is where Wilson will be, win or lose, two days after Seattle’s huge NFC West test against Los Angeles on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
He’ll be where he was this past Tuesday. Where he is every Tuesday.
Wilson’s weekly visits to Seattle Children’s hospital, to see our region’s and some of the country’s and world’s youngest and the sickest, is absolutely bigger than Rams-Seahawks. Or any game. Anywhere.
“Forever grateful for the excitement, hope and laughter he brings our patient families with his weekly visits,” Seattle Children’s wrote on its Twitter page this week. That after Wilson’s latest visit.
When Wilson was asked Thursday why he goes to Seattle Children’s each week, the Seahawks’ franchise quarterback and $87.6-million superstar got as real as he ever gets.
Wilson talked far more extensively and genuinely about that than anything he uttered about Sunday’s big game.
“Children’s hospital has meant a lot to me,” Wilson said. “I got here in May, May 11th, 2012, and one of the things was... I went to children’s hospitals at NC State and at Wisconsin and everything else, and that’s one of the things I wanted to do. When I got to Seattle, whatever city I went to, I wanted to make a difference in that city in a way that meant something.
“My mom (Tammy) grew up as an ER nurse, when I was growing up she was an ER nurse, was always in hospitals. My dad was a diabetic who passed away from diabetes. They were always in a hospital, for whatever reason.”
Harrison Wilson III was a one-time San Diego Chargers wide receiver who graduated from Dartmouth. He became a lawyer, married Russell’s mother and had two sons and a daughter with her.
He died in 2010 from complications with diabetes. He was 55.
Wilson was attending and playing his final season for North Carolina State at the time of his dad’s death. The Colorado Rockies had just selected the middle infielder in the Major League Baseball draft. Two years later, the Seahawks drafted Wilson in the third round from Wisconsin, where he had transferred and led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl.
When Wilson goes to Seattle Children’s every Tuesday, he does so while remembering those final days with his father in the hospital. Those were warm yet lonely days, when faith and each other was often all he and his dad shared.
“And it was always challenging,” Wilson said. “It was always challenging to me, because you may not have many people around. You may not have many family members around. It might just be you (in that hospital room). I remember many times it was just me and my dad in the room. Or just my mom and my sister with my dad, whatever it may be. Sometimes it’s just the whole family.
“But really, in a hospital you feel alone sometimes.”
So he goes to see Hunter in the cancer ward to sit on his bed and share a video, as he did on Tuesday.
Down the hall he sees Frida, and signs a pink football for her.
He did that on Tuesday, too.
“It’s been something that I’ve always wanted to be able to just try to give a glimpse of hope, for maybe a split second. Just a smile on somebody’s face for a quick second,” Wilson said.
Wilson then recognized the world-renowned quality of the hospital he visits each week.
“Seattle Children’s hospital does a tremendous job, first of all. I think it’s one of the best hospitals in the world, in how they treat their patients, and just the doctors that they have,” he says. “People fly from all over the world. I’ve met people from Australia. I’ve met kids from Montana. I’ve met kids from New York. I’ve met kids from all different kinds of locations around the world, just to go to Seattle Children’s hospital. I met a kid just the other day from North Carolina.”
That was Hunter. He’s from Charlotte, home of Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.
But guessing that as of Tuesday, Wilson is his favorite quarterback.
“I want to be able to make an impact—not just through playing quarterback and not just through hopefully throwing for touchdowns and hopefully win a lot of games,” Wilson said Thursday, still answering my question of why he visits Seattle Children’s. “Hopefully, if I can just put a smile on some kid’s face.
“I think the other thing is, for me, is that a lot of the world, it can sometimes be about me. Everyone wants to give you the attention, or whatever. It’s a humbling experience to go into a room and knowing that a kid may only have 12 or 18 hours left to live. Or a kid may have been hit by a car, a young girl that I meant once. You experience (that).
“And so I think it’s bigger than just the game. It’s a lot bigger than that. ...
“The reality is, you never know if it’s going to be your kid. You never know if it’s going to be somebody else’s kid that you know. I think that when you take that perspective, you are willing to do as much as you can. Having two kids now, it means the world to me just to see other people, the nurses and the doctors there, who makes such a great difference there at Seattle Children’s—not just Seattle Children’s but all hospitals around this location, and a lot of places that I have fortunately been able to go to.”
Wilson entered his other mid-week habit, his between-games press conference, wearing a team hoodie with a “Crucial Catch” patch on it. It’s part of the NFL’s annual, in-season campaign with the American Cancer Society to raise awareness for all types of cancer.
This week, Seahawks owner Paul Allen announced he has started cancer treatment for the third time.
“I want to bring an awareness to cancer, and just continue to research and try to find as many ways as possible to help it,” Wilson said. “I know for me it’s been amazing with our Why Not You foundation (started by Wilson in 2014) to be able to do a lot of things with pediatric cancer, in particular. It’s been amazing with T-cell therapy and everything else.
“It’s been a blessing just to see kids... you know, there’s no warmer or better feeling than to see a child who goes in with cancer but also comes out with no more cancer, because of T-cell therapy and other things I’ve been able to witness. I think about people like Milton Wright, and other, so many others.”
Milton Wright was diagnosed at Seattle Children’s in 2013, at age 20, with leukemia for the third time. By 2014, he was saved, by a new cancer treatment.
“It’s a tough thing that we all experience. We all may have someone we know, whatever it may be,” Wilson said. “Obviously, we have Paul Allen who’s going through something right now.
“As many things as you may have in the world, or whatever you don’t have, we all go through a lot. We all have our situations and our issues, or whatever it may be. Just to be there for people, to raise awareness, to continue to love people, and to continue to be a helping hand, whatever it may be. It may be with your resources. It may be with your time. It may just be with your voice and just giving a sense of care.
“I think that’s what’s really critical for me. The platform that I have, the platform that a lot of us players have, we can bring a lot of awareness to it. It’s a blessing to be a part of.”