DeAngelo Williams Pays for 500 Mammograms to Honor Late Mom Who Died of Breast Cancer

February 12, 2020

It may have been five years since DeAngelo Williams lost his mother to breast cancer, but the former NFL player is still committed to battling the disease.

Back in 2014, DeAngelo’s mother, Sandra Hill, died of breast cancer at the age of 53. The running back, who played eight seasons for the Carolina Panthers and two more for the Pittsburgh Steelers, also had four aunts pass away from the disease before turning 50, according to Today.

DeAngelo, 36, wanted to honor the memory of his deceased female family members and decided to help women across the country by paying for their mammograms through his nonprofit organization, the DeAngelo Williams Foundation.

Since starting the initiative in 2014, DeAngelo and his foundation have paid for a total of 500 mammograms at hospitals in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Memphis, Tennessee; Jonesboro, Arkansas; and Charlotte, North Carolina, according to Today.

“To be able to help all of these women is amazing. This could change the lives of these women,” DeAngelo told the outlet of his foundation’s achievement.” We’re making this care accessible to them, and no one should be denied or unable to access it.”

 

Hill was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004.

In his fight against the disease, DeAngelo dyed his hair pink and pushed for the NFL to allow all players to wear pink cleats throughout October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as a way to show support for his mother.

Shortly after his mother’s death in 2014, while DeAngelo was playing for the Carolina Panthers, the athlete launched the “53 Strong for Sandra” program – a North Carolina-based initiative in which his foundation partnered with Charlotte Radiology and Levine Cancer Institute to provide 53 women in the area with free mammograms and Aftercare.

This is dedicated to my mom, my aunt and all women affected by breast cancer. I love you all. #WeAreInThisTogether https://t.co/bAwaanlfzV.

– DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) October 11, 2015.
In a note on Twitter, DeAngelo said he chose 53 women because it was an “important number” and represented “the age my mom was when she lost her battle with breast cancer.”

By 2015, DeAngelo revealed that he had expanded his campaign to Pittsburgh and Memphis. That same year, DeAngelo signed a two-year contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While playing for the team, the running back asked the NFL if he would be allowed to wear pink on his jersey year-round – a tribute to his mother and aunt – but the league declined, according to ABC News.

Despite their pushback, DeAngelo continued to advance his foundation and has since retired from the league, but his program has helped hundreds of women with a future goal of hosting free mammogram screenings in all 50 states.

“DeAngelo wants to ensure that no woman (or man) fights breast cancer alone,” his wife, Risalyn Williams, executive director of the DeAngelo Williams Foundation, told TODAY in an email.

The organization also shared their impressive accomplishments on Facebook on Wednesday, revealing that they “have sponsored well over 500 mammograms and have no plans to stop.”

A spokesperson for the DeAngelo Williams Foundation did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.