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A different kind of fight: Fight Ribbon Clothing Company’s visit to Kosair Children’s Hospital

For those of you not familiar with Fight Ribbon Clothing Company, and its co-founders Brent Thompson and Scott Wells, they are making some major waves in the MMA clothing world. Fight Ribbon makes and sells clothing and training gear and have outfitted such fighters as Julio Gallegos, Josh Cooper, Jason Bradshaw, Mark Crawn, George Oiler, Tim Cook, and Jeremy Pender, just to name a few. Check out their website to see their gear on UFC fighters Justin McCully and BJ Penn.

Additionally, Fight Ribbon is putting the finishing touches on some exclusive clothing and gear that will only be available to members of their fight team, The Fight Ribbon Team which was formed by the co-founders and currently has four fighters on the roster: Gallegos, Cooper, Bradshaw, and Reaction MMA founder Rob Nickerson.

All that sounds nice, but you may be asking yourself what makes them different, or why did a clothing company form a fight team for endorsement purposes? The answer is a simple one, but one that resonates with people all over the world. The driving force behind everything Fight Ribbon does is supporting the cause of cancer awareness. Fight Ribbon donates a portion of all their proceeds to the American Cancer Society.

If you’d like to find out more about Fight Ribbon, tonight is your lucky night. Besides being able to check out their website (www.fightribbon.com) any time, those who have HDNet can see Fight Ribbon, and their Professional Face of Cancer Awareness, Julio Gallegos, featured in Kruck’s Korner on the 10/02/09 episode of Inside MMA.

In addition to raising money for cancer awareness, Fight Ribbon recently took some action on community outreach, to put some fighters’ skills to use outside the cage. To that end, Fight Ribbon and a number of fighters and supporters recently visited the oncology ward at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Ky., and a number of us went around and visited with the kids, to talk with them and hang out. It was an extremely rewarding experience for everyone present.

It was an impressive list of people that came out. Former UFC fighter Dan Christison was there with his wife Kyria, area pro standout Chad Hinton and his wife Lynne were there, as well as pro fighter Julio Gallegos and his fiancée Zeena, pro fighter Victor O’Donnell and his fiancée Sharae, pro fighter Jeremy Pender, soon-to-be-pro and cancer survivor Mark Crawn and his wife Bre, Ky amateur stand-outs and soon-to-be-pros Josh Cooper and Jason Bradshaw, Fight Ribbon supporters Crystal and Mandy, and myself.

After receiving some instructions from hospital personnel on the “dos and don’ts” of the trip, we split into two groups and went to visit the patients, all of whom were fighting various ailments ranging from different types of cancer, to blood and kidney diseases to name a few.

Let me start off by saying this. I’ve been around fighters for a long time now, guys who can take a punch like it is nothing and who fight through some tough injuries and produce some the greatest one on one battles this world will ever see – some of those guys were on this trip – but I think they would all agree – none of them are as tough as the kids we met that day.

All of the kids had a positive outlook on things, and they were all excited to talk to the fighters. I want to make a point to note that I cannot give out (and we were not given) certain information on the patients due to existing medical laws, so the descriptions of the specific patients I list are intentionally vague.

First there was a young boy named David, who was excited to meet all the guys and took the time to show Julio, Victor and Jeremy his favorite computer games. Then there was Kenny, a black belt in Tae Kwon Do who really enjoyed talking with all of the fighters, who had been doing martial arts since he was twelve and was diagnosed around age sixteen.

The group enjoyed meeting everyone, but the true star of the day was Daylon, a feisty eight year old who challenged Victor O’Donnell to a game of Wii boxing after looking around and asking the group, “Who looks the weakest?” That got a laugh from everyone in the group.

Victor put his then-undefeated record on the line and took on his toughest opponent to date, losing to Daylon by TKO late in the fight. Victor took the loss (and the subsequent ribbing from all of the other fighters there) with a lot of good humor and dignity, and everyone had a good time and got some good laughs out of it in the process.

I made it a point to speak with all of the fighters who attended to get some of their thoughts on what it was like to talk to these kids who are all fighting their own fight everyday. I posed the same question to many of the fighters, asking what it meant to them to be able to come to Kosair Children’s Hospital for something like this, and what were some of things they talked about with the kids. Here is what they had to say:

Mark Crawn: It means a whole to me, Brian, I look forward to coming out and seeing everybody, to try and cheer them up a little bit and me coming from what I just had happen to me [Furby’s note: Mark recently had his own fight, surviving a bout of testicular cancer.], I’m just glad I could come here and be a part of it and cheer them up. Even if just brightens their day a little bit, that’s good for me. We talked about SpongeBob [laughs], that seems to be a big thing with all the children. They love SpongeBob, and fortunately I have a two-year old so I know a little bit about it and was able to talk with them.

Jason Bradshaw: It’s a blessing man, just getting out here and trying to encourage kids a little bit, try to help them out, it was really great. We talked about their schools and what sports they were into, hobbies and stuff like that.

Josh Cooper: It was awesome coming up here and hanging out with the kids today. Just coming up here and seeing the smile on their faces, even when it’s somebody they don’t know, coming in to spend some time with them. Talking about SpongeBob was really big [laughs], and we talked about sports and schoolwork, just being a kid.

Chad Hinton: It was a great opportunity, man. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to come here and have these kids take time out of their day just to let us into their rooms so that’s just exciting. We couldn’t ask for a better day. We talked all about them. We wanted to ask them the right questions and keep it on a positive note, and exciting, let them tell us their favorite food and TV programs, their families and pets, just lift them up a little bit and let them tell us about themselves. It means a lot to me, I’m flattered that I’ve had the opportunity, that Fight Ribbon has given me an opportunity to be involved in this. You look at their shirts, and you don’t see things like blood and skulls all over them, it’s definitely a positive message, and it’s great they’re using MMA as a vehicle for such a great cause. I’m just honored to a part of it with these guys for sure.

Jeremy Pender: It was awesome. I know we were supposed to be here for the kids, but it really made my day, it was one of the best things I’ve done in a long time, the kids were really cool, we got to learn a little bit about a bunch of good kids. Hopefully, they’ll get through this. We talked a little Dora the Explorer, and Diego, and some Pokemon and some Star Wars. I think we worked in the MMA a little bit, but that kind of stuff is boring [laughs], I just like to talk about cartoons. We got to see Vic [O’Donnell] get taken down by an eight year old in some Wii boxing, so that was fun [laughs]. It’s really great to be affiliated with a group like Fight Ribbon. I’m not one of the guys doing this [MMA] for a lot of money, so this is an avenue where you can really touch people’s lives. They [Fight Ribbon] provide a great bridge for MMA to get involved in some really good causes. It’s really great.

Victor O’Donnell: It means a lot, man. I’ve always liked to help people, because there are a lot of people that have helped me out, I never really had a family, so a lot of people have helped me in life so this means a lot to me. It was a lot of fun to see the smiles on the faces of kids who are fighting so hard and enduring so much pain. [About the Wii boxing match with Daylon] Daylon is an up-and-coming star. I’m not ashamed, and I trained hard and obviously he trained a lot harder. I’ve never been hit so hard before in my life [laughs]. Everything touched a special place in my heart, just to see this kids, and it moved me too. There’s a lot of pain there, and it’s hard to deal with, and it’s hard to watch and I never really thought that these kids have to go through this much, and it’s not their fault, it’s just the cards they were dealt in life and it’s not a fair hand. There were a couple times I got a little choked up, almost dropped some tears. It’s a pleasure to be affiliated with Fight Ribbon. They’re not in it for themselves, they’re in it for everybody else and you can’t ask for more. You have all these good clothing companies out there, but this is actually for a good cause. It’s a very special thing they’re doing here.

Julio Gallegos: It means a lot. Just to have them forget for a few minutes about how hard every day is for them, and how it’s all an ongoing battle is important. It tugs at a different part of your heart when you can make a kid, or a mom and dad smile, so this is definitely on the top of my list of things to do. We just talked about cartoons, and I’m not so big on cartoons [laughs], so I didn’t know about some of what they were talking about but it was really cool. Watching Daylon TKO Victor O’Donnell on the Wii – he just made Victor look horrible [laughs]. I can’t really put it into words [what it means to be affiliated with Fight Ribbon], all I can say is this feels awesome and it’s an honor, a real honor to be a part of something that’s about doing something for somebody else. It’s an honor.

Dan Christison: This was by far one of the most awesome things I’ve done in my life. Being able to come out and talk to some of these kids, they’re doing things on such a level that I can’t even say how awesome it is to be able to see this, and how inspirational it is to see this kids be able to fight, literally, for every single day of their life. What we do pales in comparison, it’s not even close. To see them going through this, the kids, the parents, the families, it’s humbling and it’s one of those things that I look at thank God everyday that I can do what I do, and look to these folks for inspiration and I hope every one of them makes it through what they’re dealing with.

After speaking to the fighters, I got the chance to speak with Fight Ribbon co-founders Brent Thompson and Scott Wells. I asked them about this big day for Fight Ribbon, what it meant for them, and how they felt for the company to be doing things like this after being on the scene for just under a year.

Brent Thompson: This was one of our goals – we thought this was going to be a two-to-five year goal, being able to do something like this and here it is a year into it. We have media here covering the event, Inside MMA has a camera crew here, and the fighters we have out here are a promoter’s dream, and they’re here to do good. They’ve been meeting with the kids, Dan Christison has been signing autographs, and we really wanted to show that not only are these guys really good athletes, they’re good people. This is what Fight Ribbon was founded on, the main goal being cancer awareness, but also just doing good and helping out and inspiring these kids, and we really appreciate you coming out to cover this.

Scott Wells: The company just speaks for itself, Brian. In this area, these guys are the best that there is. You have strong character, not just strong fighters, they’re strong men and they’re family men and that’s important to us and we’re just so thankful to have all of these men and women out here and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. Doing things like this are part of the vision that we [Brent and I] came up with about a year-and-a-half ago sitting on the back porch at my house and to see it come to pass is really unbelievable. We’re really thankful and we just want to thank these guys again. I think Brent gets a kick out of me talking about shaking the foundation of the MMA world, and that we’re a sleeping giant, but I truly believe that and I think that today is one of the stepping stones that we have to take to show what these MMA fighters are about. These guys have the heart. They’re interested in finding a cure for cancer, and that’s what we’re about, raising money and finding a cure for cancer, bottom line.

- By Brian Furby

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