Washington punter Tress Way will never forget his visit with an 18- to 24-month-old baby boy and his family at the Inova L.J. Murphy Children's Hospital in Fairfax, Va., hoping the arduous treatments would cure the boy's cancer.
"Oh man, that got me," Way told NBC Sports Washington. "I don't know as a punter if I'm supposed to be that tough, but any kind of toughness I thought I had when I walked out of that room, man, I hit the floor. I'm not lying. My butt went right on the floor. I started crying, my wife gave me a hug and she's like, 'I know, I'm sorry.' It just breaks your heart."
Way began visiting the children's hospital when his wife, Briana, moved with him to Virginia, and he knows firsthand the benefits outside support can have on families of patients. Along with Easterns Automotive Group's "The Give" initiative, Way wants everyone to know that you don't have to be an NFL player to make a difference in the lives of those affected.
"Everybody can do something, it's just a matter of whether or not you're going to do something," Way said. "Everyone has an opportunity, and that's what I think is so cool about Eastern Motors and the way that they give and their donations. I think it's so awesome the support that can be done. And I think the more people know about it and what's been done, I think more and more progression will take place."
Regarding the boy who made him break down after visiting his hospital bedside, Way said he was glad to see him make a full recovery a year later and even saw pictures of him online with a full head of hair.
"I can tell you just from the times I spent in there, they're just going about life. They got dealt a crappy hand and they're fighting, and their families are hoping and praying," Way said. "And you have incredible hospitals like the Children's hospitals that do unbelievable work."
Way got involved with the Inova Children's Hospital when his wife, Brianna, moved to Virginia with him and told him she wanted to become a pediatric nurse there. Way was moved, and when she texted him about families who were big Burgundy and Gold fans, he was excited to visit.
"You talk about the spirit and the attitude of not only the families, but these kids. I remember one time my wife had to work on Christmas, and there was two families, one was about a 14- or 15-year-old girl. And then there was a 18- to 24-month-old little boy and his family...First I got to see the girl and the way she lit up whenever I walked into the room and she was all excited just because I had the jersey on."
Way recalled when Briana would joke with the teenage girl to not flirt with her husband while she was in the room, but especially the memories and pictures he got to take with her and her family. He now gives the family tickets to come to games from time to time, and even gave the girl his jersey.
It's a method of giving back in which Way is particularly fond of now that he has children of his own.
"You have to understand what it's like for me as a ballplayer. Like, I get to go play football on Sundays, and there are kids that are battling for their lives," Way said. "There are families that, now that my wife and I have children now, just that feeling every single day of that hope, and attitude, and everything you're trying to have. And then you get to walk into a room and just because you have a jersey on, it just changes their day, that they're excited to see you. So shame on me if there's a fan in the hospital that just wants to see me and I pass up on that opportunity."
But whether you're an NFL punter of these children's favorite team or not, any support or donations to organizations like the Make-A-Wish Foundation goes further than you can ever imagine.
"You may not be able to throw a jersey on and take a picture with a 14-year-old girl or hang out with a girl, but you can do something," Way said.
"And it's just the ultimate encouragement that I could ever give people because having gone in there and having a wife where that's her career, you just don't know about it unless you're there. I don't want to say it's as good for you as it is for those families, but having seen both, it's a win-win if you can support those families and help those hospitals."
To support Inova L.J. Murphy Children's Hospital, click here.