Football player one step ahead with Aretha Franklin tribute jersey for cancer

Caidon Haliburton
Walled Lake Western football player Caidon Halliburton decided to wear a pink jersey honoring Aretha Franklin in his game on Friday.

The back of one jersey read “Grandma.” Another one said “Grammy.” Others had someone’s first or last name or even a nickname. Walled Lake Western sophomore football player Caidon Haliburton wanted to do something even more unique for the 8thannual “Warriors for Warriors” pink out game against rival Walled Lake Northern on Friday. Haliburton, 14, decided to honor the late Aretha Franklin, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in August, running onto the field wearing a pink “Queen of Soul” No.69 jersey.”
The football game is played every year to promote cancer awareness and raise money for cancer research for three charities: Susan G. Komen Greater Detroit, St. Baldrick’s Foundation for Pediatric Cancer, and Angels of Hope Michigan. In its first seven years, Warriors for Warriors has raised over $490,000 and over 800 people have been honored during these touching ceremonies.
“I’m a musician myself, so, when I got the news of her passing, I was saddened,” said Haliburton, who plays a variety of percussion instruments, sings, and tap dances. “When I learned what caused her death, I jumped at the opportunity to honor her on my jersey because I felt in my heart that it was the right thing to do.”
Each of the Walled Lake Western Warrior football players wore pink jerseys honoring parents, friends, grandparents, neighbors, or loved ones who have battled, are battling, or are victims of cancer. They lined the field from end zone to end zone wearing pink jerseys that have been sponsored in honor or memory of loved ones. During the touching ceremony, they stood side by side with jersey honorees and their families. Players either had someone else pay to sponsor their jersey and the sponsor chose the honoree, or the player’s family paid for the jersey themselves, which gave them the opportunity to select the honoree.
Haliburton chose the latter, asking permission from the Franklin family to honor the famous entertainer and musician. He asked his mother if he could do it and since one of their cousins is Franklin’s goddaughter, they were able to reach the immediate family, who gave the thumbs up.
“I talked to Cristal Franklin (Aretha’s niece) and she thought it was outstanding,” said Carin Poole, Haliburton’s mother. “She said if it meant so much to him to do that, then they’d definitely support it.
“Caidon has always had a heart for helping others. His lifelong dream is to use his talents and strong interest in “old school” music to pave the way to positive choices for young people, similar to the Berry Gordy approach with Motown. With the passing of Aretha Franklin, Caidon proposed to combine his desire to help others with his love for music.”
Caidon Haliburton2
Walled Lake Western sophomore football player Caidon Haliburton decided to wear a pink jersey honoring the Queen of Soul in his game on Friday.

Being the cool kid in school, Haliburton’s friends were very impressed with his creativeness for Warriors for Warriors.
“Everyone went wild when they first saw it,” he said. “I’m known as a Hollywood kind of guy in school, I dress really nice, and I love old music, so, I don’t think they were surprised that I wore an Aretha Franklin jersey. They were more excited on what the pink out game would bring because I was wearing the jersey.”
The month of October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and high school football teams all over the country honor breast cancer survivors and victims by wearing pink. The NFL used to as well, but stopped in 2016, choosing to use the month to raise awareness and money to fight multiple types of cancer instead. The NFL partners with the American Cancer Society to raise money and awareness, raising more than $18 million since the program’s inception in 2009.
Teams in Michigan will not start wearing pink until next month, which makes Walled Lake Western’s initiative standout. The stands at the football field were a sea of pink with spectators and supporters from across the Walled Lake Consolidated School in attendance. The 2018 “Pink Out” shirts served as the wearer’s admission into the game and provided funds towards the overall fundraising goal. Shirts were sold prior to game day throughout the Walled Lake community for $15.
To kick-off the evening, a student-led “Warriors’ Survivor Parade” was held prior to the game, where patients, survivors, and those warriors who wished to honor the memory of friends and family who lost or are fighting their battle to cancer were welcome to join in the march into the stadium. Poole’s grandfather and her grandmother were affected by cancer, so the pink out game had a personal meaning to them as well.
Traditionally, players give their pink jerseys to the family of the cancer survivor or victim that sponsored them. The Franklin family said Haliburton could keep the jersey, which he plans on framing. Next season he will have to get his creative juices flowing again to top what he did in 2018. Haliburton recorded two tackles from his defensive tackle position in Western’s 38-24 win over Northern.
“I can’t see into the future, but I might be honoring former Pittsburgh Steeler Ron Johnson if I get permission,” he said. “I also have an uncle of mine named Ofield Dukes who passed away from cancer.”

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