Fist bumps, high-fives, selfies, you name it. When Santana Dotson rallies people to tackle cancer, he’s all in. Santana is about to return for his fourth straight year as the Chairperson for the Lombardi Walk/Run to Tackle Cancer in Milwaukee. One reason he keeps coming back is because he’s always liked being a part of a winning team.
“The best part about being a Packer is being a part of events and programs in the Packers community,” said Santana. “Vince Lombardi was legendary with what he did on the football field, but also now with how he’s impacting cancer through the foundation. So to be a part of that legacy, it’s an honor and a blessing and a privilege.”
Fighting cancer for family
The former Defensive Tackle helped the Green Bay Packers win a championship in 1997 and is now in the Packers Hall of Fame. His football accomplishments are impressive, but there was always someone in his life who kept him grounded, someone who reminded him about the importance of giving back—his mother, Caroline.
“Being the son of a social worker, that tells you all you need to know. She wasn’t concerned about all-American or Super Bowl. She was concerned about how I was making not only my family better, but my community better,” Santana shared.
His mom is another reason he supports the Lombardi Walks, not only because of those lessons she taught, but because of the impact this horrible disease had on her. Santana lost his mom to lymphoma three years ago. He and his sister took her to treatments several days a week. He knows firsthand the impact it has on the entire family.
“Cancer wears on you physically, but it’s also an emotional disease that affects everyone in your family unit. Everyone is on the front lines for treatments, chemo and post care. So for me to come to the walk and give people a hug or a high-five, it’s like a pep rally. It’s Lombardi’s way of saying, ‘you can do it and we are here for you.’”
Santana also participates for his grandmother, who passed away two years before his mother did. She also had lymphoma. Keeping their memories alive and getting to know people in the community is what keeps him coming back year after year.
“It touches you personally, and you want to be able to help more people because you really understand what folks are going through,” he said. “You want to meet them where they are and let them know you’re supporting of them, you understand.”
Santana also loves being able to meet his fans.
“They all have stories about watching Packers games with their family and they’re walking with them or for them. For a lot of these events, it’s the whole family unit showing up to support those affected by cancer.”
How you can help
If you’re a cancer survivor or want to support others in your community, you can join Santana’s team at one of ten Lombardi Walks to Tackle Cancer this year.
Money raised will support local cancer care and research initiatives by Aurora Cancer Care and is eligible for a 50 percent match from the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation.
All proceeds from the Lombardi Walk to Tackle Cancer will stay local. To see all walk locations and join the team, go to LombardiWalk.org.
Santana will be in Milwaukee on July 22 and he’ll be ready with a fist bump if you need it.