When Sandra Miller first met Sean Pollard, she knew instantly he was the “real deal.”
Miller, who is charge of the Clement’s Kindness Fund for the Children—which raises money for pediatric cancer research, the children and helps the families financially—first met Clemson’s starting offensive tackle when she gave him at tour a few months back at the Children’s Hospital in Greenville, S.C.
“The way he interacted with those kids,” she said. “He got down and he played with them and was coloring with them and doing all sorts of things with them that was making them smile and laugh. It takes a special person to do that, and not everybody can do that.
“I have taken people to the hospital before and he by far is one of the ones that I can say he generally gets it. He wants to help. He has a passion for those kids and he just loves it. It gives us a lot of hope to see young people that have that same compassion and that excitement to make a difference in the lives of these kids. It is just so exciting to see someone like him want to help. It is awesome.”
That visit sparked something in Pollard. As he was leaving the hospital that afternoon, he knew he wanted to help in some way.
“When I left I could not stop crying for like fifty minutes,” Pollard said. “I wear my heart on my sleeve. I always have, but just realizing I sit there and complain about the little stuff, but these kids live with this day-to-day and no one is promised anything.”
So Pollard went home and prayed about it. He said God told him he was “doing this and he had no other choice.” So the next week Pollard went to Jessie Carroll, Player Relations Coordinator for Clemson’s P.A.W. (Passionate About Winning) Journey program and told her his idea.
The idea was to shave his head, along with other members of the Clemson football team, to help raise awareness and money for pediatric cancer research. On Thursday, Pollard, along with center Gage Cervenka, kicker Greg Huegel and others from the football team had children helped by the Clement’s Kindness Fund shave their heads along with the help of the women’s basketball team.
Pollard’s fund raising event called “All Off for Cancer” has already raised nearly $7,000, easily surpassing their goal of $5,000, and they have only been raising money for a few weeks.
“I will be there in the middle of fall camp complaining that it is too hot or I’m too sore, but literally, these little kids are getting treatment. And it is like, ‘Where do you want this needle this time?’ They say, ‘my arm’ or something like that and they are so nonchalant. It definitely changes your perspective.”
It changed Pollard’s life.
“Sean has been on me for the past year about wanting to get involved and wanting to do more,” Carroll said. “He is so so passionate about kids. When he came to me first, our first conversation, he told me when he leaves Clemson that he wants to start a foundation. He wants to help kids.”
Carroll said she walked him through some different ideas to see what he was passionate about – children in need, homeless kids and pediatrics cancer.
“We settled on pediatric cancer and we went to the Children’s Hospital in Greenville and we walked around the hospital and visited patients and it changed him,” Carroll said. “I knew that and I could see that. Just being able to witness that with him, I could tell that he was very passionate about this and he wanted to do it.”
Now the goal is to keep doing it and Pollard hopes it gets bigger and bigger each year. Pollard, a sophomore, plans to shave his head and his teammates’ heads each year before fall camp. However, he says he will not shave his beard, and he plans to let it keep growing, until his final year at Clemson. He says after that he will have a special ceremony to shave it off with the hope of raising even more money for pediatric cancer research in the process.
“I’m not cutting it until I graduate,” he said. “Until I get my degree, I will not cut it… For the big bang, the final event, the beard will be coming off.”
Miller says what Pollard has already done is huge for the Clement’s Kindness Fund for the Children because he has given them another outlet to bring awareness to the general public about pediatric cancer research.
“The more people that know about us, the bigger awareness we are going to have and the more people are going to donate,” she said. “That is huge because usually, unless you have a child with cancer or a serious blood disorder, you don’t really know of us because we are the people they are told about in the hospital. You are a patient and then you are told about our services.
“We want to change that. We want to be a household name, but we also understand we are not a national organization and sometimes it is hard to get exposure, but Sean is helping us do that. Every person that helps us is another piece of the puzzle to help make us a household name and that can help us reach more children and families that are in need.”
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