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Xavier Rhodes, Jimbo Fisher Team Up To Fight Fanconi Anemia

Xavier Rhodes and Ethan Fisher at FSU Spring Game
Picture provided by Lauren Novo at The Zimmerman Agency

Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes is teaming up with his former college coach, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, to help fight a rare disease for which there is currently no cure.

Rhodes announced his partnership this week with Kidz1stFund, a foundation created by Jimbo Fisher and his wife, Candi. The mission of Kidz1stFund is to raise research money to fight Fanconi Anemia, a disease that affects one in every 131,000 children born in America today. The Fisher’s son Ethan, who is pictured with Rhodes above, suffers from the disease.

Here’s a brief description of Fanconi Anemia (FA) from Wikipedia:

FA is the result of a genetic defect in a cluster of proteins responsible for DNA repair. As a result, the majority of FA patients develop cancer, most often acute myelogenous leukemia, and 90% develop bone marrow failure (the inability to produce blood cells) by age 40. About 60–75% of FA patients have congenital defects, commonly short stature, abnormalities of the skin, arms, head, eyes, kidneys, and ears, and developmental disabilities. Around 75% of FA patients have some form of endocrine problem, with varying degrees of severity. Median age of death was 30 years in 2000.

Treatment with androgens and hematopoietic (blood cell) growth factors can help bone marrow failure temporarily, but the long-term treatment is bone marrow transplant if a donor is available.

Because of the genetic defect in DNA repair, cells from people with FA are sensitive to drugs that treat cancer by DNA crosslinking, such as mitomycin C.

The leading research in the fight against Fanconi Anemia is located right in our backyard at the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital. Since its inception five years ago, Kidz1stFund has donate $3.5 million directly to research for the Fanconi Anemia Comprehensive Care Program at the University of Minnesota.

"I can’t tell you how much it means to me to see former players like Xavier step up to support my family and make a difference in our fight for a cure," Fisher said. "Xavier is a phenomenal man and I am so grateful for his kindness and support. He reached out to us and told us he wanted to know how he could make a difference and I was blown away by his commitment. The Vikings and Minnesota are blessed to have someone that gives back to the community, but that is just who he is. I look forward to seeing him continue to excel on and off the football field."

Rhodes, like most of Fisher’s former players at Florida State, has developed a pretty tight bond with his former coach.

"Coach Fisher and Candi created a special bond with all of the players," Rhodes said. "Being a Seminole means you are forever a member of one big family. Coach Fisher taught me so much on and off the field -- and it is a privilege to support Kidz1stFund by using my platform in the NFL to raise awareness for the fight against Fanconi anemia."

While Fanconi Anemia patients will all eventually need bone marrow transplants, research advancements have led to increase life expectancy in those fighting the disease. Kidz1stFund has also sponsored bone marrow drives adding approximately 5,000 people to the National Bone Marrow Registry; eight of those individuals were selected as a match and have donated to save the life of a patient in critical need.

If you want to learn more about Kidz1stFund, you can check them out at their website.

Kudos to Xavier Rhodes for getting involved in a fight like this one. Hopefully this fight will be won in the very near future.