Jerry Wunsch's experience with cancer led him to form his 'Circle of Friends'
Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive tackle Jerry Wunsch has been working with pediatric cancer patients since the Buccaneers drafted him in 1997. He lost a family member to cancer that year, and after helping the rest of his family cope with the pain, he felt a strong need to help others who were going through the same experience. Jerry's desire to work with cancer patients led him to form the "Circle of Friends" program, an initiative designed to generate funds that are donated to programs for pediatric cancer patients.
Jerry is currently planning the third annual "Jerry's Journey," a trip that involves him accompanying pediatric cancer patients on a five-day winter excursion to his hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin. This year, Jerry will bring together young cancer patients from Tampa, Atlanta and Wausau for a carefree ski weekend.
To kick off the journey, which will take place from February 16 – 20, children from all three cities will converge at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin for a tour of the famed facility. They will then travel to Wausau, where they will engage in such activities as cross-country and downhill skiing, dog sled and snowmobile rides, arts and crafts sessions, campfires and hot-dog roasts. The goal of every "Jerry's Journey" is to give the children a weekend where they can have fun being kids and forget about their illness for a while.
To make sure the travelers, especially those from Florida, can endure the cold Wisconsin weather, Jerry always provides each child a Buccaneers winter jacket, gloves and ski cap. He also brings plenty of adult chaperones and licensed nurses on each trip in case any of the children suddenly became ill or needed assistance of any kind.
What makes Jerry's program so special is the personal attention and selflessness he demonstrates toward the children. Last year's trip began the day after he got married. Instead of jetting off to a tropical paradise for his honeymoon, Jerry and his wife, Melissa, spent their first days as a married couple in the snow with a group of children.
"Every year, I hope the children involved in Jerry's Journey will find comfort in realizing kids all over the world go through the same experiences when dealing with cancer," Jerry said. "The kids make new friends, enjoy several different experiences and, most importantly, learn they are not alone in this world."