NEW JERSEY - Giants great Eli Manning living his best life in retirement but continues to find time to give back. The two-time Super Bowl MVP teamed with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Jersey to surprise a very deserving family.
Unbeknownst to Cassandra Izquierdo and Jack Lindsey, Manning would be on hand to help present a donation of $10,000 to Tackle kids cancer in honor of their daughter, Penelope.
"I’ve been very involved with Make-A-Wish over my career at the Giants," says Manning. "Tackle Kids cancer in a way is trying to grant similar wishes and healing pediatric cancer through their research and clinical trials. For both these charities that I’ve been so associated with to come together, it's been an awesome day."
"She was so energetic and amazing," says her father Jack. "Perfect, if you really had one word—it's perfect. We're gonna keep fighting for Penny and keep fighting for a cure. Keep fighting for all the other children out there."
In February, Penny lost her courageous fight with neuroblastoma—a rare form of pediatric cancer.
"Penny wanted to help all the time," says her mother Cassandra. "This is what she would have wanted, even though she's two and a half, she still would have wanted to give and help somehow to other kids."
The day was extra special as it also marked the first time in over a year a wish was granted safely in person at the make-a-wish castle in New Jersey.
"I've been here at Make-A-Wish for 19 years, 19 incredibly humbling years," says Tom Weatherall, the President and CEO of Make-A-Wish New Jersey. "I've watched Eli with wish kids and families and take them aside when the cameras weren't on, when the microphone wasn't there—and give encouragement to these kids and their families. Our relationship with the New York Football Giants since our inception in 1983. So for 40 years, they have been the greatest wish-granting partners, but they're also donors to us."
According to Penny’s mother, childhood cancer research is severely underfunded, with just 4% of the funds from the National Cancer Institute going to clinical trials. Much of the financial support comes from organizations like Make-A-Wish and Tackle Kids Cancer.
"She's always going to be here through this, through doing this. She's never really gone.
Children diagnosed with this form of cancer have a 40% recovery rate and roughly 800 families are impacted by this disease per year.