Tony Siragusa’s giving spirit lives on by ‘Goose Flights’ charity

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tony Siragusa had talked final 12 months with associates and fellow former NFL gamers about his hopes for a charity effort. He needed to present hospitalized youngsters and their households the expertise of dream journeys, all the best way to touring in consolation on a non-public jet.

Siragusa died unexpectedly in his sleep final June, solely 55 years previous, however his household has been in a position to keep it up his imaginative and prescient and a want to deliver pleasure to others, and that took an enormous step ahead this week.

On Sunday, his daughter Sammi will watch the Eagles and Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII with the Winstead household of Louisville, Kentucky, whose previous 12 months has been a tough problem as properly. They are the primary recipients of “Goose Flights,” the Siragusa household’s charity, giving youngsters and younger adults coping with adversity a dream journey in a non-public jet to experiences like this.

“This has been absolutely incredible,” Sammi mentioned Saturday. “Everything we’ve done leading up to this point has completely paid off, and you could see that just by the Winstead’s reaction. It’s just been absolutely amazing. I’m almost speechless.”

Cayden Winstead, 23, fell and hit his head whereas at a buddy’s home one night time final February, and earlier than anybody realized he was injured, he had gone hours with out oxygen to his mind.

The preliminary phrase from docs to his dad and mom, Leslee and Chris, wasn’t good, telling them they may have a tough choice forward with restricted hope for restoration. But they reached out to Kindred Hospital in Louisville, and Cayden’s restoration has been regular and superb. 

So many elements of each day life most take with no consideration, as soon as in jeopardy, are slowly returning. He couldn’t converse initially however has regained his voice and his humorousness; he couldn’t see initially, however is regaining his imaginative and prescient, and he continues to make outstanding progress bodily, even in a position to stand with assist.

“They didn’t give up, and you can look back on a year and see what happens when you have faith and perseverance,” Sammi mentioned. “You don’t give up, and that’s one thing my dad would say all the time: Don’t give up. That is Cayden, that is his story, that is his family’s story. All the hard work he’s put in for all of these months, to find the strength to start moving, all of that determination has led him here.”

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So, two households flew collectively to Arizona, bonding over a 12 months of grief and hope, becoming a member of for a memorable weekend that may culminate with Sunday’s sport. 

A visit to the Super Bowl — Siragusa gained one with the Ravens 22 years in the past in 2001 — and to FOX’s broadcast studios, which he was part of for 9 years, hit residence for Sammi as she nonetheless grieves her father’s passing.

“It’s as personal as you get,” she mentioned. “I’ve come to Super Bowl events with him in the past, and he had such a heart for all these festivities. To do it without him is really hard, but I just know that he’s here with us, guiding us, and he’s led me to Cayden. To be able to do the things that I’ve done with my dad, and now do them with Cayden and the Winsteads, it’s been extremely special.”

The four-hour flight was the Winsteads’ first as a household, and the group had fairly a memorable Friday morning go to to State Farm Stadium, the place the Eagles and Chiefs will meet Sunday. The Winsteads, Sammi and others with Goose Flights hung out at FOX’s studio lot simply exterior the stadium. They toured the inexperienced room, assembly Raiders tight finish Darren Waller after a TV look. When Friday’s version of “Undisputed” with Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe completed taping, they met Sharpe, who gained a Super Bowl with Siragusa with the Ravens in 2001.

“Goose was great,” Sharpe mentioned after a number of moments with the household. “We balanced each other out — he was the guy for the defense to keep the practical jokes going, and my job was to do that on the other side of the football. He was always lightening the mood. You could never be down around Goose. The sun was always shining. It was always going to be a great day. 

“He was essentially the most fun-loving man to be round, and his coronary heart and his persona was as large as his physique. If you solely spent a day and even an hour with Goose, to be round him, you understood what an enormous persona and nice individual he was.”

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Goose Flights charity brings Winstead family to Super Bowl

Goose Flights charity brings Winstead family to Super Bowl

Goose Flights is a charity began in honor of the lifetime of Tony Siragusa. Its goal is to rearrange transportation for youngsters and younger adults in want. This 12 months, they introduced Cayden Winstead and his household to Super Bowl LVII in Arizona.

They proceeded to the set of “The Herd,” whereas Colin Cowherd was broadcasting stay, they usually acquired to fulfill with former Pro Bowl tight finish Greg Olsen, who can be a part of FOX’s broadcast crew for Sunday’s sport. Standing not far off digital camera, Olsen needed to shush himself (“I’m a loud talker”) as he engaged with Cayden and his household earlier than an look on the present.

The group acquired to see extra of FOX’s huge operation getting ready for Sunday’s sport, together with one of many manufacturing cubicles the place dozens of digital camera feeds and edited replays may be screened and used within the broadcast. This unit’s producer and director had each labored with Siragusa in his FOX days, and by coincidence, the technical director goes by “Goose” as properly.

They let the household in on some business secrets and techniques: Camera views are all numbered — no less than 40 in a single array of displays — however accounts for edited video, like replays, are recognized by names, like Sigma, Peoria, Boise, Gold. They even introduced in high-school soccer groups to run simulated performs on the sphere, simply to check the cameras going by actual soccer motion in Friday’s rehearsal.

Their tour really acquired them into the stadium and even onto the sidelines, standing simply off the sphere as actress Sheryl Lee Ralph practiced “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which she’s going to sing earlier than the sport. They went as much as the precise broadcast sales space the sport can be referred to as from as properly.

Among the group was a Super Bowl legend in former Giants working again Ottis “O.J.” Anderson, a two-time Super Bowl winner and MVP with the Giants in 1992. Watching Ralph follow her singing for Sunday, Anderson remembered how shut he was when Whitney Houston famously sang the nationwide anthem. He had talked with Siragusa about his imaginative and prescient for serving to children only a week earlier than he died final 12 months, and needed to be part of Cayden’s journey, proudly sporting each Super Bowl rings and masking Cayden together with his denim jacket to maintain him heat as they went about their tour.

When the Siragusa household selected the Winsteads for his or her first Goose Flight journey, they did not notice that Sunday and the Super Bowl would additionally mark the one-year anniversary since Cayden’s fall. It’s fairly a method to mark the passing of a 12 months, with a lot progress in his restoration and way more to return.

Sammi mentioned Goose Flights has ambitions to ship experiences like this way more usually than on Super Bowls, with hopes of establishing a number of journeys a month, working with hospitals to search out extra households just like the Winsteads.

“We want to be the No. 1 charity that hospitals can turn to for transportation for kids. We want to be doing these constantly,” she mentioned. “We have big goals. We want to have our own private jet that we’re able to transport everybody on. Part of my dad’s vision was to get a jet, have it wrapped as a football with Goose Flight’s logo on it, and he wanted purple snakeskin interior.”

The purple snakeskin hasn’t occurred, however the spirit of what he dreamed of is now a actuality, and his daughter is keen to deliver pleasure to as many individuals as she will be able to, identical to her father did.

“Before he left us, he left us an outline of his whole entire vision,” she mentioned. “So we came in and just said ‘Let’s do this.'”

Greg Auman is FOX Sports’ NFC South reporter, masking the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his tenth season masking the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having hung out on the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can comply with him on Twitter at @gregauman.  

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