Nearly three weeks since beginning a fundraiser to donate all proceeds of the sales of Devon Still jerseys to pediatric cancer research, the Cincinnati Bengals announced Sunday they had sold nearly 10,000 of the jerseys, and had approached $1 million raised.
All the proceeds are going through the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. The Bengals started the fundraiser before the season, the same week they kept the reserve defensive tackle on their practice squad in part to help him keep insurance to pay for his 4-year-old daughter's cancer treatments. He has since been signed to the active roster.
Orders, the team said, have come from all 50 states, as well as from Canada and Australia. A team source first told ESPN on Thursday that the sales of the $100 jerseys were closing in on the $1 million figure.
According to a news release, the Bengals will continue selling Still's jerseys through Oct. 20 on their website. For fans of other NFL teams who want to support the effort but not purchase a Bengals jersey, the Bengals have a place on the website where they can donate directly to the hospital. There also are other groups Still has partnered with that are sending funds to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where Leah Still has been receiving treatments.
On Thursday, Leah underwent a nearly six-hour surgery that removed the tumor from her body. She's not cancer-free just yet, though. Her bone marrow has been attacked by the disease, Stage 4 neuroblastoma, meaning that she still has a round of chemotherapy, radiation and stem-cell treatments to go through. When she was originally diagnosed June 2, doctors had given Leah a 50-50 chance of survival.
"We applaud Devon for his openness in sharing his daughter's challenging story nationwide through media and social media," Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn said. "We also applaud the response of our fans and many others to the jersey sales. The welfare of Devon and Leah are foremost in our minds, but we are proud and excited to be able to be a part of something that can help advance the cause of fighting childhood cancer."
New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton is among those who have purchased Still's jersey, buying 100 of them with his own money and donating the physical jerseys to Cincinnati Children's Hospital and Boys and Girls Clubs around southwest Ohio.
The story surrounding Still and his daughter gained national traction the first week of the regular season when he told reporters in Cincinnati that his mind wasn't 100 percent on football in the preseason because of his daughter's plight. He also was dealing with a hamstring injury and coming back from two other ailments that derailed his second NFL season last year. As a result, the Bengals cut their former second-rounder when they had to reach the 53-man roster limit at the end of August. A day later, they added him onto the practice squad.
A week later, he was brought up to the 53-man roster and contributed. Through two games, he has five tackles.
The Bengals are off this week but return to action next Sunday night when they travel to New England.
On Nov. 6, the night of their Thursday night game against division-rival Cleveland, the Bengals will present a check to Cincinnati Children's Hospital that will exceed $1 million. The Bengals also are absorbing the cost of making the first 10,000 jerseys -- approximately $500,000 -- allowing the full sale price of the jerseys to go to the hospital.
On sales in excess of 10,000, the hospital will continue to benefit from all sales minus the cost of the jerseys.
"Not only has [Still's story] generated international attention to the issue of pediatric cancer, but it has served as an inspiration to many other families that are traveling a similar path," Michael Fisher, president of Cincinnati Children's Hospital, said. "I want to thank the many individual donors. We promise to be good stewards of every dollar in our ongoing effort to find new and better ways to treat pediatric cancers."