Athletes on a sports team are usually admired for what they do on the field, but their work off the field has the ability to make a far greater impact. This is exactly the case with the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research, which visited Russell Athletic Training Camp on Monday.
The foundation, whose mission is to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer research, works closely with the Falcons and took the day to bring children and give them an exclusive look at the team's practice.
"We've been associated with the Falcons for about the past five years, which has been great," Rally Foundation President and CEO Dean Crowe said. "It started with Todd Weiner, and then we had Curis Lofton and now we have Corey Peters. They have a real heart for the cause and then when they meet the kids, their heart grows even bigger for the cause. And of course the kids think it's super cool to be at the Falcons camp and get to be around the players."
Peters, a defensive tackle, is closely involved with the foundation and spends time with the children with events such as taking them to the Georgia Aquarium and sponsoring a fashion show for them.
Nine-year-old Tori Svenson, who was at training camp, donning a sparkly blue skirt and bow earrings, said that Peters was "definitely" her favorite player. Svenson, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor on April 12, 2011, also said that she wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up.
"I had a lot that I was able to do because of my journey," she said. "I'm glad God used me."
Crowe explains that the great thing about their foundation is that every child's family member is invited to come to training camp, which makes the experience even more special to the child.
"For the whole family to be able to come out and do this together is amazing," she said. "We have a couple of Rally kids here today who are big sports fanatics, we have a couple of rally siblings who are huge sports fanatics and then we have a couple of dads who are thrilled to be here so it means a whole lot on a lot of different levels."
One of these dads is Troy Tankersley, a life-long Falcons fan that describes the experience of being at training camp as "once in a lifetime and a dream come true."
His daughter, 12-year-old Mary Tankersley, was diagnosed with bone cancer in November of last year and said she enjoyed the experience mainly because of how happy it made her dad.
"When we got the word (of her diagnosis), honestly, my wife and I, we both felt like we were right where God wanted us to be," he said. "We weren't sure what was going to be the outcome, but we did feel like God was in control so that gave us a lot of peace.
"It's very difficult to watch your child suffer and go through what she had to go through but Mary has a lot of courage, and feistiness and has a lot of fight in her. She just did so good through it all."
Eleven-year-old Bailey Moody, who was diagnosed with bone cancer last spring, sits next to Mary on the bleachers and although she shares that same courage that her friend has, she gets to forget about her illness and enjoy the experience, especially considering she's a big sports fan.
Nearby them, 5-year-old Livi can be seen running around while players practice in the field in front. Her mother, Maggie Graham, said Livi was diagnosed with leukemia just a little over three months ago.
"She loves princesses and the color purple," Graham said. "She wants to be a vet when she grows up. She loves animals. She's just a ball of fire."
For Peters, it means everything to him having these children here who admire him more for what he does for them after the practice instead of what he does on the football field during practice.
"I'm just so blessed to be able to be a part of it," Peters said. "Those kids inspire me every day. Every time I get an opportunity to spend some time with them, I always feel good. I think they help me more than I help them."