Yes, I now that you feel you are not strong enough. That's what the enemy thinks too. But we're gonna fool them. - Knute Rockne
Striving for excellence in the face adversity, finding the best in your self, learning to work within a community and being grateful for the support of others.
This describes both the path of a very special football team and the patients, families and medical professionals who work to find the cures and treatments for childhood sarcomas.
Some other things they share in common are the joy of triumph whether that’s a fantastic season or a research breakthrough. Both the two hundred pound team captain and the fifty-pound child become leaders, inspire others with hope and evoke courage. And in the case of Norris Weese, 1977 Denver Bronco QB and Dani Stell, succumbing to Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that typically affects children and young adults.
Mile High Miracles brought the two together on the evening of March 6, 2010 in the East Club Lounge at Invesco Field at Mile High, as a tribute to the players and coaches of the 1977 Denver Bronco Football Team, and in honor of the memory of Norris Weese.
Like a diligent head coach Martha Simmons seemed to be everywhere at once, whether conferring with her team of miraculus volunteers, or making sure that each aspect of the event was forseen.
The silent auction tables if laid end to end would surely have reached from goal post to goal post on the gridiron; placards read Entertainment, Travel, Romance, Art, Sports, Childrens, Health and Beauty etc. Literaly hundreds of items for any taste were availble for bidding. From the moment guests arrived they ran a gauntlet of gratitude and welcome from not only Dani’s Foundation volunteers but all of the Invesco Field staff as well. As fans bid on items they were encouraged to partake of the two open bars and hor derves of tiny pizzas, hot dogs and burgers.
Football is a sport for big men and the stats indicate that they are getting bigger in stature each year. Football players have a reputation for being big in everything they do, big moves, big voices, big apitites and big hearts. It’s rare to not find an autographed jersy or ball as an auction item at any fundraising event, and very often the attendance of one or more players. When you bring together not only acclaimed players but the fiftieth anniversity of the famed “Orange Crush” team the success of your event is garranteed.
By just after eight that evening fans had filled up the bidding cards and were invited into the dinning area for the “Fan”tastic Dinner. Two films were run while participants began their meals, one documented the amazing people and events of that 1977 Super Bowl season, with with news excerpts and current interviews that included Head Coach Red Miller. The second video showed heroes of a different sort, some not much bigger the a football. Babbies and children and teens who, despite shaved heads and hospital gowns showed the pride, strength and perseverance that is typical of a winning athelete.
Co-hosts Vic Lombardi, CBS 4, and Lois Melkonian, News Radio 850 KOA, kept things moving for the first part of the evening, which included a reading of Mayor John Hickenlooper’s proclamation marking March 6th as “Mile High Miracles Day” in Denver, CO. Following the reading of the proclamation, the official doccument was presented to Head Coach Red Miller to add to his personal Denver Bronco collection. The event was billed “Mile High Miracles, A Tribute to the 1977 Denver Bronco Football Team – Denver’s very first Super Bowl Team” but like a football game the real heart and soul of the game is found not on the field but in the background. Michele Ashby rose to the podium and shared, not only her story, but Dani’s story and the story of Dani’s Foundation which lends support children with cancer, and those stats say this includes one in six children in America.
Ewing's Sarcoma is a particularly insidious form of cancer in that it first appears as pain in muscles and bones which is often ignored as “growing pain” in children or in the case of Norris Weese as pain associated with the rigors of an athletic career. Dani’s Foundation is dedicated to advancing the global initiative aimed at funding research that will find the cause and cure for Ewing’s Sarcoma and the other forms of Pediatric Sarcomas that are affecting and taking the lives of children and young adults.
Jim Saccamano, Vice President of Communications for the Denver Broncos took the stage to highlight the career of 1977 QB Norris Weese. Saccamano outlined an amazing carreer that began in youth and carried through his years with the Denver Broncos Football Team. Saccamano then introduced Norris’ wife Sandy, who traveled from New Orleans to be a part of the Mile High Miracles celebration.
Weese took the stage to share her memories from the ’77 season but made an impassioned plea to join in the Campaign to End Ewing’s Sarcoma in memory of her husband who succumbed to the disease in 1995. The Weese family has joined with Dani’s Foundation to establish The Norris Weese Ewing’s Sarcoma Research Fund with the goal of raising much-needed funding for the development of science that will seek to find the cause and the cure for Ewing’s Sarcoma and the other forms of pediatric sarcomas. As Weese spoke, volunteers from the Brighton High School Honor Society walked through the audience and passed out pledge forms to the assembled guests.
As the Mayor’s proclamation stated March 6, was and will be Mile High Miracles Day and to kick that off former Denver sportscaster Gary Cruz and event Chairman Jim Jensen gave recognition to players and Coaches who attended – in person and in spirit (Owners Alan and Gerald Phipps, Lyle Alzado, Fred Gehrke, Bernard Jackson, Bobby Mables, Bob Peck, Fran Polsfoot, Paul Smith, Gail Stuckey, Norris Weese and, Tim “The Barrel Man” McKernan.)
Each of the key aspects of the 1977 season were recognized starting when the Coaches took the stage (Red Miller, Joe Collier, Marv Braden and Babe Parilli). Next, members of the Orange Crush Defense including Rubin Carter, Bucky Dilts, Steve Foley, Bob Swenson, Billy Thompson, Louie Wright came forward to share their Mile High Memories. Following the defense, members of the 1977 Offensive Unit were announced and Otis Armstrong, Ron Egloff, Tom Glassic, Paul Howard, Glenn Hyde, Jim Jensen, Jon Keyworth, Craig Penrose and John Schultz joined their Craig Morton in sharing many tales from the ’77 season. As many players noted, this was the “biggest reunion of players and coaches for the 1977 Team” since achieving their successes during the Season of Miracles. The original #7 Denver Bronco QB Craig Morton shared his memories and with all the team members present Jon Keyworth rounded out the evening by singing his hit and the anthem of the 1977 season “Make Those Miracles Happen”.
Mile High Miracles was sponsored by MiNE LLC, News Radio 850 KOA and CBS 4 in association with A Creative Corner,Timothy Bishop, Budweiser, CEAVCO Audio Visual, Centennial Sir Speedy, Creative Technology Prosthetics and Orthotics, LLC, Land Title Guarantee Company, Providers’ Resource Clearinghouse, RealNet Realty, The Children’s Hospital, Tim & Lynn Simmons, VBK Designs, West Tech, Inc. and the Family of Norris Weese.
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