Derrius Guice's mission began without a goal. He just wanted to make an impact.
Once Redskins minicamp finished, the Baton Rouge, La., native returned home looking to give back to the community that raised him. He found inspiration when the mother of his best friend, Jonathan, rang the bell at the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, symbolizing that she had finished her treatments and fought off cancer.
Jonathan had introduced Guice to the video game world at LSU, and the two have grown closer over the years. His mother's fight inspired him and opened his eyes to the disease.
Not everyone rings the bell, though, including LSU's Mike The Tiger, the ferocious feline which passed away shortly after being admitted into care there. After touring around the facility and learning more about the challenges patients face there, Guice decided to put his efforts towards the cancer center.
"I just wanted to donate so they could do more research," Guice said on Thursday. "I just feel like there's more and more you can always do to help find a better cure, or just keep finding little things by littlethings to find a cure for cancer."
So, last week, Guice began a GoFundMe campaign, asking anyone to send in whatever donations they could. "I want to continue to have people ring that bell and bring a cure to this disease that has touched almost everyone's life in some way or the other!" he wrote.
To help raise more money, Guice incentivized certain amounts, offering to play a game of Fortnite with anyone who sent in $5. Those who donated $25 would be entered into a contest to receive signed LSU cleats. For $50, Guice offered an afternoon of bowling, his favorite hobby, at a local lanes, while those who donated $100 would be entered to win two tickets to the Redskins' Monday night game against the New Orleans Saints.
Money began flowing in.
"At first my goal was $5,000 and every time it got closer and closer to the goal, I just upped the goal," Guice said. "I got the $5,000 within two hours, so I just upped it every time."
As of this writing, Guice has raised just less than $19,000, and expects to receive more donations at his bowling event Friday afternoon, where he'll sign more autogrpahs and take pictures for $20 each. Once the event concludes, he will present a check to the center.
In his short time since being drafted, Guice has made it a habit to give back and connect with the communities of people that have and will play an important part of his life. That's included extended autograph sessions after practices to spontaneous movie nights organized over social media. In this instance, Guice remains devoted to the place and people that raised him.
"When I was growing up, thank god that I had people in my corner," Guice said. "I just know there's a lot of people in my same situation that didn't really have that growing up. I just want to be a role model and a leader for the kids and the youth, especially in areas that I come from, to always let them know that there is way out, there's always a light at the end of the tunnel. Don't ever just give up your dreams just because of the situation you're currently in. That's my whole motivation for it."
Guice has quickly become a kind of role model kids rarely see in professional athletes today. He's provided them access and openness, and in return hopes that will put them on the track he received.
"You can make it out of any situation, it's all up to you," Guice said. "But don't let anybody else tell you what you can't do, or let a situation dictate what you can or can't do. I just want to be that positive [force] – I just don't want to be one of those people that talk about it and try to show you but never went through it. Because I went through it myself, I feel like it will touch a lot more people than people that just want to talk about it, but never experienced it. It hits home and means a lot more when you've been through the same thing."
Now, a week after his birthday, in which he bowled his personal best, 259, he'll be knocking down pins with a much larger and meaningful number on his mind, one he hopes continues growing before signing his name onto a large piece of cardboard.