Christian McCaffrey fulfills legacy of a young Panthers fan who died of cancer

Logan Hale’s room served as a shrine to Carolina Panthers football. He’d filled his drawers with the team’s gear and plastered his walls with posters of the team’s players. He hammered in construction nails to hoist jerseys as decoration.

Christian McCaffrey Honors 12-Year-Old Super Fan Who Died of Cancer

One player dominated his attention beyond the rest: Christian McCaffrey. The running back’s No. 22 could be found everywhere and he became Hale’s idol.

A jar stood in that room, filled to the brim with coins. Hale filled it with money anytime he received gifts from friends. He’d been saving up to buy video game consoles, not for him, but for kids like him who were stuck in hospitals.

Christian McCaffrey Honors 12-Year-Old Super Fan Who Died of Cancer

Hale died from leukemia in December 2021 at the age of 13, but his idol has been instrumental in helping his parents and brother carry his goals through. McCaffrey and his foundation partnered with the Hale family to launch The Logan Project, an organization that looks to give pediatric patients an outlet through gaming.

Christian McCaffrey teams with Logan Project to help cancer patients

In a ceremony Monday at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital, McCaffrey gave out nine video game consoles to the kids in the hospital. He, alongside Panthers teammates Shaq Thompson and Jeremy Chinn, then played games with the patients.

“Not only was he a fan, but he was an inspiration,” McCaffrey said of Hale. “I’m super grateful just to be a part of his story and to carry on his legacy and fulfill his dreams of helping kids because that’s what he wanted to do.”

Christian McCaffrey helps grant the wish of a young Panthers fan

“His favorite player, the person he admired the most, is making (his dream) come true,” Hale’s mother, Kristina, said.

After Hale entered treatment for leukemia, he received a portable Xbox console. The console allowed him to stay connected with his friends even as he became physically isolated from them in the hospital.

He’d play a litany of games with them but quickly realized that many of the kids in the hospitals with him weren’t afforded that same privilege.

Carolina Panthers Jeremy Chinn, right, greets Zac Barnett, 14, at Atrium Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, N.C., on Monday, July 18, 2022. Christian McCaffrey and Christian McCaffrey Foundation commemorated ‘The Logan Project,’ presenting the first nine gaming consoles for pediatric patients to Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital and delivering on the dream of Logan Hale, who lost his battle with childhood cancer in late 2021. Khadejeh Nikouyeh [email protected]

“He frequently said to us, ‘Wouldn’t it be great mom and dad, if we could put together some money for a foundation that would (buy) kids who were suffering their own Xboxes and Playstations?’ ” David Hale, Logan’s father, said.

He began trying to achieve that goal, filling up the aforementioned jar with coins that the family plans to empty out at the bank and donate soon. Around that time, he received a video from McCaffrey that told him to “Keep Pounding,” the Panthers’ mantra.

The slogan matched well with Hale’s own, “Fight like Hale.” He’d put both mantras on his computers, reminding him to fight and keep fighting throughout his struggles with cancer, Kristina said.

Above those computers on his desk hung McCaffrey’s jersey, one of the many visual embodiments of Hale’s love of the team. While the family lived in New York, the Panthers became his adopted team since elementary school.

He initially loved Cam Newton, David said, but became a fan of the Stanford running back soon after he joined the Panthers.

“He loved the way Christian never let up and never gave up,” David said.

Hale wore Panthers gear more than half the time, using nails to hang ones he outgrew on his walls

“‘Sweetheart, can you like use a stapler?’ ” Kristina remembered asking him. “He’s like, ‘No, they have to stay here forever.’ “

After he died, the family knew that he’d want to be buried with the team’s apparel. They laid Hale to rest surrounded by old jerseys and dressed him in Panthers flip-flops, Panthers shorts, a Panthers hat and McCaffrey’s jersey.

“I just kind of broke down,” McCaffrey said of his reaction when he heard Hale had been buried in his jersey. “You know that you have an impact and you play football, but man, it’s so much bigger than you. That hit me like a ton of bricks.”

Once he learned about Hale’s passing, McCaffrey paid for the family’s funeral and started to develop a connection with them, one that was evident Monday when they handed out the gaming consoles.

McCaffrey noted that he hoped the project continued beyond Charlotte into all 32 NFL cities.

“For a kid who’s a fan of Tom Brady or Aaron Donald or someone like that, to be able to play video games with one of these guys for a little bit would be so special,” he said. “I just want Logan’s legacy to continue, not just in Carolina, but everywhere.”

David echoed that sentiment and noted that other NFL teams had heard about the project’s success and had considered picking it up.

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