Back in 2005, a boy on the baseball team Dean Crowe's husband coached was diagnosed with brain cancer. As William struggled and fought, Crowe asked his mother how she could help their family.
William's mom had just one request.
"Raise money for childhood cancer research, and fund the best research wherever it may be," she said.
Since that time, Rally has raised over $7 million to fund research to cure childhood cancers and develop more effective treatments for children fighting cancer. They've maintained the athletic connection, partnering with athletes like former Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann and former NFL linebacker Takeo Spikes to raise awareness and funds to support their mission.
Their connection to the Falcons happened in a roundabout way.
"So we were actually running the Publix Marathon -- the half marathon. We had people running that as a Rally team, and there was a Falcons player signing autographs, and so it was Todd Weiner," Crowe said. "So I just went up and did everything that I've been taught not to do, and I said, 'I have a charity,' and you just saw his eyes glaze over."
Crowe told Weiner that Brian McCann was involved, and she also told him that Sam Wyche was the organization's spokesman at the time. It was Wyche's involvement that sold Weiner, who remained involved with The Rally Foundation until his retirement in 2009. Since then, Curtis Lofton, Corey Peters and Joe Hawley have all worked with Rally on behalf of the Falcons. Now the mantle has been passed to second-year defensive end Vic Beasley, Jr.
Beasley has always been a little shy with the media. He's gotten more comfortable over the course of the past year, but he's pretty quiet. With the Rally Kids, though, Beasley seemed right at home.
"Vic can be kind of quiet around the adults, but you put him with the kids and he’s just so happy and they love him," Crowe said.
Beasley was joined at the Rally on the Runway event by teammates Justin Hardy, Damian Parms and Ben Garland.
Hardy was happy to be there to show support to the Rally Kids.
"You never know what a smile on your face can do for kids that are going through this," the second-year receiver said.
Parms was with the team during the offseason last year, and he returned about a month ago. He jumped at the opportunity to be involved with Rally on the Runway.
"Last year when I was on the team, I made sure I was at every event I could go to, and this year it's nothing different," Parms said. "I just like to do things for people. That's just my heart. As soon as I heard about the event, I just wanted to come and show up."
For the event, each player and other people from the community escorted Rally Kids, children who are fighting childhood cancers, down the runway for a fashion show.
Vic looks like he couldn't be happier to be there. pic.twitter.com/L3aX8QcWO0— Jeanna (@jeannathomas) April 16, 2016
Former Falcon Kevin Cone was at the event and walked the runway, too.
Former NFL linebacker Takeo Spikes was also on hand. Spikes told me he has served as The Rally Foundation's spokesman for four years. Watching him interact with Peyton, the little one on the left, was a highlight of the evening for me.
Rally on the Runway raised $250,000 in just one evening. That's a lot of money to put toward research to benefit children fighting cancer. Vic Beasley wants to encourage you to join the fight, also.
Beasley has issued a challenge to Falcons fans to help generate support for The Rally Foundation throughout this season.
Just know that if you pledge to support the work of The Rally Foundation through Beasley's challenge, or if you choose to support them in any other way, you're giving your money to an organization that's operating at 94% efficiency. That means that 94% of all of the money they raise goes directly to their mission -- funding research toward cures for childhood cancers.