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Rutgers football holds event for EmbraceKids Foundation, some shave their heads

<p>Director of Player Engagement Roosevelt Boone. Carla Marshall was diagnosed with early Stage III, late Stage II breast cancer in January.</p>

Director of Player Engagement Roosevelt Boone. Carla Marshall was diagnosed with early Stage III, late Stage II breast cancer in January.

Children from the Embrace Kids Foundation shaved Rutgers football team members’ heads last Thursday as part of a campaign to bring awareness of those battling various forms of cancer.

The event, called Cuts4Carla, took place in the lobby of the Hale Center on Busch campus and was in support of Carla Marshall, the mother of redshirt freshman defensive back Anthony Marshall.

“Anthony’s mom has been suffering from breast cancer and just last week she just received word that the cancer had been removed from her body,” said Director of Player Engagement Roosevelt Boone. Carla Marshall was diagnosed with early Stage III, late Stage II breast cancer in January.

“When my mom heard about the event, she just laughed at me told me I was crazy. It’s a really big thing to her,” Anthony Marshall said. “It meant a lot.”

Boone, Anthony Marshall and co-defensive coordinator Noah Joseph volunteered to have their heads shaved. While getting his head shaved, Boone said he may have found his new barber.

“I wasn’t worried about getting my hair cut, I’ve done it before,” Anthony Marshall said. “When my mom first lost her hair to chemo, that was my first reaction just to let her know that her fight is my fight and she’s not in it alone. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so to do it again and kind of let those kids know that Rutgers football is here for you, that was amazing.”

The event was held in partnership with the Embrace Kids Foundation, which is a nonprofit that works closely with Bristol Myer's SquibbChildren’s Hospital and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

“We support the nonmedical needs of families battling life-threatening illnesses, mainly cancer, sickle cell, genetic disorders. Through that we have direct access to the Children’s Hospital: We’re there every day and we build relationships with the families so we’re able to serve as a conduit and as a liaison to other people,” said Embrace Kids Foundation Family Services Manager Armaan Saxena.

A Rutgers alumnus, Saxena said that Embrace Kids Foundation has a really good relationship with Rutgers University as a whole and with the Rutgers football team. The team has done a number of visits with the organization at Children’s Specialized Hospital where players will engage with the kids and have a good time, Saxena said. 

The team also supports Embrace Kids Foundation events like its annual blood drive.

“We’ve really been able to do a lot with the team and extend that relationship to something that’s deep and intimate where our patients and the football players really get to know each other,” Saxena said. “It’s not just superficial. A lot of these football players and the coaches are familiar with the stories of some of our patients and they actually have a deep-rooted connection with them.”

The kids were really excited to shave the football team’s heads, he said. Many of them look up to the Rutgers football players.

“They want to be Rutgers football players one day. We’re able to build relationships with the team and bring them into the hospital and serve all the needs of the families in a comprehensive way — financially, socially, emotionally, spiritually,” Saxena said. “The football team really comes in with the social and emotional guidance, they’re there to uplift patients.”

The football team was at the event to support the Embrace Kids Foundation, as well as the members who were getting their heads shaved, Boone said. Following the event, a number of team members gave the kids a tour of the Hale Center facility.

“I actually went up to (Joseph) because my mom had cancer and I told him I wanted to do this, but for him to make it like this, this is not what I had in mind. It was amazing to have the kids come out and have my teammates come support,” Anthony Marshall said.

This was Anthony Marshall’s first time working with the Embrace Kids Foundation, and he said he wants to be more involved. Cuts4Carla was special for the kids because they miss out on so many normal childhood events, Saxena said.

“They don’t go to the same birthday parties they used to, they don’t go to school as much anymore, and sometimes they’re out of school. But none of their friends are coming to Rutgers football stadium and hanging out with the Rutgers football team. Giving them a unique experience like that is something that really helps bring back some normalcy in their lives and gives them some hope,” he said.

The event is hopefully the first of many, said both Boone and Saxena.

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