In each issue of HemAware, we “Take 5” with people in the bleeding disorders community and spotlight their efforts with just five questions. Here, we talk with Robert Champagne, whose son, Micah, 9, has severe hemophilia A, about the foundation and friendship he developed with Texas Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson. (Follow Wilson on Twitter.)
How did you meet C.J. Wilson?
In 2006, the Texas Rangers came to visit the Cook Children’s Hospital here in Fort Worth, Texas. My son, Micah, who has severe hemophilia A, had been hospitalized for a port infection. C.J. noticed him and went over to talk to him, and they just hit it off. Later that day, Micah told everyone at the hospital how this really cool baseball player gave him a hug and how happy that made him. I wrote C.J. a thank-you letter, telling him how much he lifted my son’s spirits, and C.J. contacted me. We met for lunch, and C.J. told me he wanted to learn more about hemophilia.
How did C.J. Wilson’s Children’s Charities begin?
C.J. asked Micah one time about all his hospital visits and what he thought about them. Micah said they were kind of boring because they never had any good video games. At that time, I was wrapping up my tenure as the president of the Texas Central Hemophilia Foundation. C.J. said, “Hey, why don’t we start a charity to donate video games to children’s hospitals?”
What’s the focus of the charity?
Because of Micah, we focus on hemophilia-related issues. The charity gives a lot of money to local hemophilia camps and hemophilia treatment centers (HTCs). What’s unique about our charity is that our board of directors consists of me, C.J. and his agent. We run it. Also, we focus mainly on awareness; raising money is secondary. As C.J. has said, “One of the benefits of my job is I can write the big checks.”
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How does the charity raise awareness?
We have events targeting older teens and 20-somethings. We do Guitar Hero® tournaments, bowling tournaments—things where they can hang out with some of the Rangers baseball players. We scale it to the amount of money they have, so admission is typically $15. During the event, we’ll stop for a few minutes and I’ll talk about hemophilia and what it’s like to raise a child with hemophilia. Then, C.J. will talk about why it’s important to get involved in something and give back.
Our philosophy is that if we target young people who can give $15, by the time they’re 40, they can give $1,500. It’s a way to get people into the habit of incorporating charity work into their lives. Also, we can reach people outside the bleeding disorders community. I’ve had people come up to me at events and say, “I never knew anything about hemophilia before. What can I do to get involved?”
How does it feel to be involved with a charity like this?
It’s amazing. A while back, we went to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas to give them a donation, and C.J. hung out with the kids in the arts and crafts room at the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, painting with them for an hour and a half. One of the things that I always say is, “Always say thank you.” You never know where it’s going to lead. There are very few moments in your life when you can really change something and make a difference. The moment Micah met C.J. was one of those moments.