The former running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers first started covering the cost of mammograms for women in 2015.

By Joelle Goldstein
October 11, 2019

Five years may have passed since DeAngelo Williams lost his mother to breast cancer, but the former NFL player is still committed to fighting against the disease.

Back in 2014, DeAngelo’s mother Sandra Hill passed away from breast cancer at age 53. The running back, who played eight seasons for the Carolina Panthers and another two for the Pittsburgh Steelers, also lost four aunts to the disease before the age of 50, Today reports.

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Wanting to honor his late female family members, DeAngelo, 36, decided to help women across the nation by paying for their mammogram screenings through his nonprofit organization, The DeAngelo Williams Foundation.

Since he began the initiative in 2014, DeAngelo and his foundation have paid for a total of 500 mammograms at hospitals in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Memphis, Tennessee; Jonesboro, Arkansas; and Charlotte, North Carolina, according to Today.

“To be able to help all these women is amazing. This can be life-changing for these women,” DeAngelo told the outlet of his foundation’s accomplishment. “We are enabling them to get this care that no one should ever be denied or not have access to.”

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Hill was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004.

As she battled the disease, DeAngelo showed his support for his mother by dying his hair pink and pushing for the NFL to allow all players to wear pink cleats throughout October for Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Shortly after his mother’s death in 2014, while DeAngelo was playing for the Carolina Panthers, the athlete launched the “53 Strong for Sandra” program — a North Carolina-based event where his foundation partnered with Charlotte Radiology and Levine Cancer Institute to provide free mammograms and follow-up care to 53 women in the area.

In a note on Twitter, DeAngelo said he chose 53 women because it was a “significant number” that represented “how old my mom was when she lost her battle to breast cancer.”

By 2015, DeAngelo revealed that his event had extended to Pittsburgh and Memphis. That same year, DeAngelo signed a two-year contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While playing for the team, the running back asked the NFL if he would be allowed to wear pink on his uniform all year — a tribute to his mother and aunts — but the league declined, ABC News reports.

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Despite their push back, DeAngelo continued moving forward with his foundation and has since retired from the league but helped hundreds of women from his program, with future goals of hosting free mammogram screenings in all 50 states.

“DeAngelo wants to ensure that no woman (or man) fights breast cancer alone,” Risalyn Williams, his wife and executive director of The DeAngelo Williams Foundation, told Today in an email.

The organization also shared their impressive accomplishment on Facebook Wednesday, revealing that they “have sponsored well over 500 mammograms and have no plans of stopping.”

A spokesperson for The DeAngelo Williams Foundation did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

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