Sam, an 11-year-old from Gillett, Wis., had reason to party. After suffering a brain tumor at age 10, he is now disease-free.
And party he did.
Children with cancer and Green Bay Packers players celebrated the holiday season at the fourth annual "Families of Children With Cancer Christmas Party" on Tuesday at St. Mark Lutheran Church in DePere, Wis.
"Just getting to talk to the Packers," Sam said. "It's awesome."
Those Packers included Aaron Kampman, Corey Williams, Ahmad Carroll, Patrick Dendy, Cullen Jenkins, Craig Nall, Kevin Barry, Mark Tauscher, Kenny Peterson, Nick Collins and Vonta Leach. The Packers ate ice cream and pizza, played a variety of games, sang Christmas carols and read Christmas stories all while mingling with the families.
"It means a lot to the kids," said Kathy Toonen, president of Families of Children With Cancer. "It gives them a lot of hope."
Toonen estimated that 250 people attended. Children from ages one to 19, who have either have cancer or have completely recovered, took part in the festivity. The party has increased in size every year.
The Packers played hangman, pin-the-tail-on-the-jersey, checkers and golf putting games with the children. They also painted faces and adhered fake tattoos on the kids' faces and arms. For the players, however, building friendships with the children served as the most enjoyable aspect.
"It's tremendous to see a lot of the same families. You kind of develop relationships with them," said Kampman, who has attended the party every year. "It's great to be here and support them and encourage them."
A highlight for both observers and participants was the singing session toward the end of the evening. Whether American Idol-wannabes or out-of-tune crooners, children and players sang a variety of Christmas songs together. Peterson served as de-facto emcee while Carroll showed off snazzy dance moves.
"Everyone gets into it," Kampman said. "No one's really ashamed."