If Cheers Could Heal, Leah Still Would Be Cured

Reprinted from the Enquirer on 10/8/14


If cheers could heal, Leah Still would be cured


If cheers could cure cancer, that cruel disease would have been wiped out Thursday night by the ovation given to Devon Still.

The Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle, whose 4-year-old daughter, Leah, is battling cancer while wearing her trademark smile, was the guest of Enquirer Sports’ “Beyond the Stripes.”

The Moerlein Lager House was, as Enquirer Bengals beat writer, Paul Dehner Jr., aptly noted, “packed and stacked,” for the weekly football talk show. The crowd at the Smale Riverfront Park restaurant next to The Banks belonged to the international support group that has purchased more than 10,000 of Still’s No. 75 jerseys to support pediatric cancer research at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Clad in street clothes, Still did not wear his jersey Tuesday night. There was no need for him to be in uniform. Members of the audience had that covered. Twenty “75s” of all sizes dotted the standing room only crowd.

Enquirer Sports’ Beyond the Stripes with Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still presented by JosephAuto.com from the Moerlein Lager House Downtown. The Enquirer

Speaking in a strong, but soft voice that wavered from time to time with emotion, Still spoke of Leah’s fighting spirit.

“You wouldn’t know she is battling cancer,” he said. “What she brings to this world is her strength.”

He spoke with good humor about trying to fit his NFL-size frame onto one of those tiny uncomfortable cots hospitals set up for parents in their child’s room.

“A man of my weight should not be on that bed,” he said.

The crowd laughed.

The laughter quickly faded after he added that he thought about going to a hotel to sleep. But, he decided against it. “If she woke up in the middle of the night and I wasn’t there, she would be in trouble.”

The Enquirer’s Richard Skinner brought the show even closer home when he noted that his mom died of breast cancer and how “everyone in this room has known or been touched by someone who has had cancer.”

Knowing nods could be seen at table after table. Some nods belonged to the parents and caregivers of 11 Dragonfly Foundation kids on hand to show support for Still’s daughter and his fund-raising efforts to eliminate pediatric cancer. The Dragonfly kids gave gifts to Still for his daughter. He also received a $5,000 check from Enquirer Media for cancer reseach at Children’s Hospital.

Madison Owens, now a second-grader from Crosby Township, was one of the four Dragonfly girls – she wore a yellow hair bow – who greeted Reds radio broadcaster Marty Brennaman at Great American Ball Park after he had his head shaved on the field in 2012. That benefit for the Reds Community Fund also called attention to the Dragonfly Foundation’s mission: Helping families cope when cancer strikes little kids.

“I hope she stays okay,” Madison said of Leah Still, still recovering from five hours and 50 minutes of surgery for stage-four neuroblastoma in Philadelphia. “She needs to have a favorite nurse help her be strong when she gets her shots.”

Yosselin Villatoro, a 9-year-old Dragonfly from Liberty Township, had some words of encouragement for Leah. “She can totally kick cancer in the butt,” said the third grader whose bone cancer is in remission. “She needs to be brave. But tell her it’s okay to cry.”

Tears filled Jamie Scoglietti’s eyes as she patted the shoulder of her daughter, Bella. The 6-year-old from Amelia has acute lymphocytic leukemia.

“Bella had all sorts of signs of leukemia, bruising, being tired,” she said. “But they just didn’t add up.

“Then I read the story the Enquirer about a Bengals player’s daughter having cancer. That’s when everything came together. I took her to the hospital and she was diagnosed.

“That story about Leah and her dad,” she said, taking a deep breath, “made me get help for my little girl.”