Hope and joy and acts of kindness are not the exclusive domain of the holiday season, but they certainly seem to shine brighter as the holidays approach.
And so it was this year, when a group of professional players banded together in a spontaneous act of generosity and kindness for a pool fan most had never even met.
George Cardenas III was 20 years old, worked out religiously and was studying criminology to follow in the footsteps of his policeman father, George Jr., before a series of accidents led to the discovery that he had Ewing Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer. It was during subsequent chemotherapy treatments that George III, a pool fan and league player, learned that the cousin of his good friend, Dan Miller, was married to pool pro Jayson Shaw.
One thing led to another, and George III and Miller found themselves in Las Vegas, watching a pro event and meeting the top players. Miller introduced Cardenas to Shaw, who, in turn, introduced him to his favorite pros, Darren Appleton and Shane Van Boening. Cardenas has photos of himself with all three players. He and Appleton hit it off, and Appleton "friended" Cardenas on his Facebook page. The two traded messages on and off for the past year, during which time Cardenas' cancer went into remission.
But this past fall, Cardenas learned that the cancer had returned. The prognosis was not very encouraging. He posted an update on Facebook, simply stating that he'd received some bad news.
Now, anyone who has spent any time getting to know Darren Appleton will not be surprised to know that the likeable Brit immediately messaged Cardenas to find out what was going on.
"I told him about the diagnosis," Cardenas recalled. "He felt really bad."
The thought of his new friend's suffering obviously affected Appleton, because a few days later Appleton called Cardenas with an offer.
"I just wanted to do something for him," said Appleton. "He said it was a dream of his to go to the Mosconi Cup, so I got to thinking about what I could do to get him out there and make it a trip of a lifetime. I started to plan a way to raise money."
Appleton contacted Shaw and Van Boening to see if they would contribute signed jerseys or products for auction to help raise the money needed to fund the trip. He set up a GoFundMe account online and posted his challenge on Facebook. He sent personal messages to pool players and industry friends, asking them to share his post to get more people involved.
A pro pool player did all this. Unsolicited. Because it was important to him.
I, for one, am not surprised.
Thirty-five years around this sport has shown me countless examples of what huge hearts pool players really have.
I kept thinking about top athletes in other sports. How many would have done this on their own? Pool pros don't have agents and marketing teams to whom they could shuffle off the legwork. Would a million-dollar athlete sit at his computer and personally make this happen?
Appleton figured the trip would cost $3,000. He decided to set an ambitious goal of $5,000. Pros jumped in to donate autographed product. Industry friends joined in as well. Pool fans reached into their pockets.
In five days, the campaign generated more than $7,000.
Cardenas will get the trip of a lifetime. Darren Appleton and the pool community made sure of that. In fact, the campaign left Appleton with such a good feeling, he wants to do it again next year for another deserving fan.
To all the cynics who think pool players are just self-centered egomaniacs...I say, Happy Holidays!