The Broncos honored cancer survivors with a halftime ceremony and pregame reception as part of their "Fight Like A Bronco" campaign. (Halftime photos by Gabriel Christus, reception photos by Ben Swanson)
DENVER —** As the Garrett family prepared for a very special Broncos game Sunday, they couldn't help but think back to the Sunday that set them upon this path that.
It began on a Sunday in September 2014 at an afternoon watch party for the Broncos when Nicole Garrett felt a lump in the stomach of her 4-year-old son, Corbin.
After a visit to Children's Hospital Colorado the next day revealed Corbin had Stage 3 Burkitt lymphoma, Corbin began receiving inpatient treatment for the next three months.
Amid such a trying time, the family maintained some degree of normality by watching Broncos games together.
"We were inpatient during football season, and so we watched a lot of football and he just totally connected with being able to watch football with us," Nicole said. "And it made us feel like a family. So when we come here, it's kind of like, 'This is what we do.' We love watching the Broncos and cheering, so it's really fun for him to be here and be able to experience this."
Corbin's cancer went into remission just three months after just three months of treatment, which helped him win a fast and intense battle with cancer.
Three years later, Corbin, Nicole and a handful of other members of their family were at Sports Authority Field at Mile High celebrating Corbin's journey and the journeys of so many others who have fought cancer.
Before the game, Nicole imagined what it would be like to walk onto the field with her son with more than 125 other cancer survivors for the halftime "Fight Like A Bronco" ceremony. Though some fans would leave their seats for the break, thousands would remain and cheer to show their support, and as Nicole pictured the scene, her eyes began to well up.
"It's pretty amazing," Nicole said. "It feels so special to be here and … have him as a survivor."
It was an emotional day for the Garretts and the dozens of other cancer survivors who were selected through the American Cancer Society, the Broncos' season-ticket-holder pool, corporate and hospital partnerships and an online referral system available to the community.
"This is really a powerful and impactful day for us," Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis told the group at the pregame reception. "Our fans recognize it and we honor it throughout the week leading up to the game. … It takes courage and a lot of hard work and effort to get to where you get to. It is certainly recognized by our organization."
Ultimately the Broncos recognized more than 125 cancer survivors at halftime as part of their "Fight Like A Bronco" initiative that was coordinated with the NFL's "Crucial Catch" campaign.
"I think it's just the meaning of fighting," Nicole said. "And it's everybody. It's the family and it's the community all coming together, really honoring everybody that's here. It's pretty amazing that the Broncos open it up to everybody and not just breast cancer. I think being a part of this process is pretty special."