Former New York Jets defensive tackle Marty Lyons was on hand Wednesday to celebrate the opening of the Commack office of his children foundation’s Long Island chapter.
The Marty Lyons foundation, which started in 1982, has granted more than 6,500 special wishes to children with life-threatening and terminal illnesses. The mission of the Foundation is to grant last wishes to children and help families get through difficult times.
Lyons started the foundation after facing one of the hardest times in his life at the age of 25. Within days of the birth of his oldest son, the former NFL player’s father suddenly died, as well as a close friend and young boy he had taken on the role of a big brother to. The events were devastating, but Lyons found solace in the ability to give to others.
“You wake up one day and you realize you are in a position to help people. I started a vehicle to help kids who were being cheated out of life, but it was also a vehicle for me, to help me move on,” he said.
Through the foundation, children with terminal illnesses ages 3 to 17, are granted wishes so that they have a chance to experience their ultimate dream. Some of those wishes include trip to Disney parks, meeting a celebrity, receiving a computer system, a swimming pool filled with spring water, a shopping spree, and special renovations to allow a child to live at home with family, swim with dolphins, a Cinderella-like “Sweet 16” birthday party and more. About 7,000 wishes have been granted since the foundation's inception 32 years ago.
Lyons emphasized that a person doesn’t have to be famous to make a difference.
“We just have to touch as many people as we can and put a positive imprint on the game of life. Anybody can do that; you don’t have to be a professional athlete. All you need to do is care,” he said.