Redskins' Jason Campbell Comes Through for a Lifelong Fan
Antoinette "Pinky" Berry fought hard, but as she drifted into her final days, she had very little left. In bed at Washington Hospital Center's Cancer Institute, surrounded by family and friends, she had stopped eating, wasn't much for talking and showed little of the spirit that made her so popular in the Oxon Hill Safeway's bakery department.
Making her hospital rounds one day this month, Vera Oye Yaa-Anna, a storyteller who offers patients encouragement and perhaps a song, instantly recognized Berry from Safeway.
"Seeing Pinky in her terminal state was devastating," Oye says. Trying to hide her emotions, Oye edged toward the door. On the way out, she noticed that Berry was covered with a homemade Washington Redskins blanket.
Are the Redskins your team? Oye asked, and the drawn face lit up. Have you been to a game? Would you want to go?
"No," Berry replied weakly. But she did have one request.
"Jason Campbell," she said. The patient wanted to see or talk to the team's quarterback.
"That was a request I couldn't do anything about," Oye says. So she said farewell and slipped away. "I thought, 'I'm never going back to that room; I cannot help her.' " But Oye couldn't get Berry's sorrow out of her mind. She sat down and, knowing no one in the Redskins organization, sent an e-mail to the generic mailbox on the team's Web site.
The Skins' online operation passed the e-mail to B.J. Corriveau, the team's vice president for community relations. Within 30 minutes, Corriveau was on the phone with Oye: Good news: Campbell wanted to make the call.
The next day, says Tina Carter, one of Berry's younger siblings, "my sister was so excited that she sat up in bed and put on her wig -- she'd lost her hair from the cancer treatments -- and put on her makeup, too. For a phone call!"
At the appointed hour, Campbell called and spoke to Berry for 10 minutes, about the team and her lifelong devotion to all things Redskins, about her spirits, about the need to keep on keeping on.
"I was just trying to make her feel real important," says Campbell, the 26-year-old quarterback. "Cheer her up, thank her for being such a big fan. A story like this really gets your heart. If you can encourage them even a little bit, you have to try."
After he finished with Berry, to the shock of everyone in the hospital room, Campbell asked to speak to each relative and friend who was visiting. They passed the phone around, each hearing the quarterback tell them "to support her all the way. Let God do the worrying for you. She's in God's hands."