Giving Thanks

Compassionate athletes have given these inspiring youngsters something extra to be grateful for this season.


thanksgiving savion allmond mccourty brothers

Savion Allmond and the McCourty Brothers

When he was six months old, Savion was diagnosed with sickle cell disease, a hereditary blood disorder that can cause severe pain and organ damage. He has been hospitalized at least 100 times, has had his spleen removed, and now receives monthly blood transfusions. A couple of years ago, he met twin NFL defensive backs Jason McCourty (Tennessee Titans, below right) and Devin McCourty (New England Patriots, below left), who have fought the disease through their foundation, Tackle Sickle Cell, which supports blood drives and aims to raise money and awareness. Savion, 13, keeps in touch with the brothers several times a year at fund-raising walks and other events. "It feels like there are actually people out there listening to our prayers," says Savion. "It's very awe-inspiring to see that people this famous are supporting what I am going through." The twins have several family members who have struggled with the disease. "When I see Savion, he always has a smile on his face," says Jason. "It puts life in perspective."


thanksgiving jake mishka gus kenworthy

Jake, Mishka, and Gus Kenworthy

Thousands of dogs roamed the streets of Sochi, Russia, leading up to the 2014 Olympics and were in danger of dying. So when freestyle skier Kenworthy saw several stray puppies while there to compete, he immediately fell in love. Kenworthy, who won silver in the slopestyle event, returned home with his fellow medal winners (the U.S. swept the event), while a friend stayed in Sochi to help with the adoption. Two pups now live in Denver, Colorado, with Kenworthy. He calls Mishka (above, left) a troublemaker who will do anything for a treat. "If you stop giving him attention, he just gives you the saddest look ever," says Kenworthy. Jake (above, right) is more independent, but both dogs love swimming and fetching tennis balls. Jake's mom lives with Kenworthy's mom six hours away in Telluride, where Kenworthy often brings his dogs to visit. "I didn't have plans to bring back a dog," says Kenworthy. "I just felt if there was any way I could help these guys out I should."


thanksgiving mia mcpoland phoenix mercury

Mia McPoland and the Phoenix Mercury

Mia suffers from Diamond-Blackfan anemia, but that didn't stop her from coaching the Phoenix Mercury as an honorary assistant during the WNBA playoffs. As the 11-year-old concentrated on helping the team secure the 2014 title, the organization focused on supporting Coach Mia in her fight against the rare bone marrow failure syndrome, which has required her to endure more than 100 blood transfusions. To raise awareness about Mia's condition, the Mercury presented Mia and Be the Match — a nonprofit that manages the national marrow registry — a $1,000 "salary" for each of the three rounds the team advanced through. "I'm going to be a Mercury fan forever," says Mia. The feeling is mutual. Says coach Sandy Brondello, "Mia is so special. She's confident and has a go-get-it attitude. I'm pretty sure everyone knows who Coach Mia is now." — Lauren Shute


thanksgiving dan trainor craig breslow

Dan Trainor and Craig Breslow

Dan has undergone multiple surgeries since doctors found a tumor on his brain in 2007. He underwent treatment at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital, which was the beneficiary of a $500,000 donation from Red Sox pitcher Craig Breslow's Strike 3 Foundation. Three years later, Daniel received an award for his courage from Strike 3, and in the four years since, he and Breslow have kept in touch, texting each month and hanging out at Daniel's house or going for pizza in the off-season. "I've become a bigger baseball fan after meeting Craig," says Daniel, a high school freshman. He told Breslow his goal was to befriend the biggest player on the football team so he would have a bodyguard for four years. The ultimate goal, of course, is getting rid of the tumor remnants, which according to recent MRIs are dissipating. Says Daniel, "I'm in an extremely good spot right now."


Photos: MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (SAVION, DAN), JOHN GRIESHOP/GETTY IMAGES (DEVIN MCCOURTY), WESLEY HITT/GETTY IMAGES (JASON MCCOURTY), GARRETT ELLWOOD FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (DOGS), SIMON BRUTY/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (KENWORTHY), BARRY GOSSAGE (MIA WITH MERCURY), AL TIELEMANS/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (BRESLOW)

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