Andrew Christianson keeps his focus on the positive things in life.
In 2011, the now 14-year-old was diagnosed with Pre-B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, and over the next couple years had to endure aggressive rounds of chemotherapy and several overnight stays at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Thanks to an aggressive treatment schedule and Christianson’s positive outlook, however, that long and rough journey appears to be coming to a close.
Christianson is now in remission.
He was a special guest of host Brian Orakpo’s Monday at the outside linebacker’s fourth-annual Leukemia Golf Classic at Trump National Golf Club.
The scramble-format golf tournament – which featured several current and Redskins players, coaches and front office personnel – benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
“We're raising a lot of money for this great cause,” Orakpo said. “And I'm just excited for another opportunity, another year of success, and hopefully we continue to move forward.”
Christianson and Orakpo in recent weeks have formed quite the friendship. The teenager recalled thinking when he first met the three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher, “I was like, ‘Wow, there’s a living legend standing right in front of me.
“It’s something I never expected that would happen to me,” Christianson said of meeting Orakpo, and then meeting several of his teammates on Monday.
Orakpo said he wants all children who are diagnosed with a disease like leukemia or lymphoma to know that “We have their backs.”
“They have our full support,” he said. “I try to be very down to earth and forget about the whole hoopla of being a professional athlete and stuff of that nature. I just want them just be normal kids and just know that I have their back, my teammates have their back and they have our full support.”
First-year Redskins head coach Jay Gruden was among those teeing off for a good cause Monday morning. He said he’s proud of Orakpo for helping organize such a great tournament.
“It’s a great opportunity to give back a little bit and Brian’s done a great job with this tournament — I’m glad to be a part of it and help in any way I can,” Gruden said. “It’s a great opportunity to help some people that desperately need it.”
Redskins general manager Bruce Allen said he’s proud to represent an organization like the Washington Redskins that has a long history of helping in the battle against leukemia and lymphoma.
In 1980, Redskins legend Bobby Mitchell started his own Hall of Fame Classic, another golf tournament that also benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
“I really think that when you think of the Redskins and the Leukemia Society, you go back to Bobby Mitchell and his decades of commitment, and it’s something we love doing,” Allen said. “There are so many different great causes that we get involved in and when you meet some of the people who need some assistance it really touches your heart. We feel great about our involvement and if we can do more, that’s what we want to do.”
Smiling from ear to ear on Monday after meeting up with Orakpo and his teammates, Christianson had a few simple words of encouragement for those going through what he had to endure not long ago.
“Everything gets better,” he said. “Once you get through it, everything gets better.”