Frank Calderon never expected, planned or hoped to be featured in a video that went viral.
As Calderon and the Catholic High football team ran out from under the stadium before their ninth game of the season in October, Calderon took a detour.
The junior ran into the stands to bring flowers to his 69-year old grandmother, Amparo Calderon – who is battling breast cancer for the second time in 10 years.
After handing her the flowers, the two shared a lengthy hug while Calderon was fully dressed out in his football gear. He then returned to the field with his teammates where Catholic improved to 9-0 and ultimately finished the regular season 10-0.
A video of his trip into the stands has been featured on ESPN’s flagship program, SportsCenter, and Calderon has future interviews scheduled with Fox News and CNN.
Calderon was born in Costa Rica and said he always had a close relationship with his grandmother, who frequently took care of him while his parents were at work.
The Calderon’s moved to Florida in 2008, when Calderon was four. Shortly after the move, Amparo Calderon was diagnosed with breast cancer. She beat cancer that time but one week following the 10-year anniversary of her accomplishing that feat, she was diagnosed with breast cancer again.
“The first time she had cancer, I was so young and didn’t understand it,” Calderson said. “For a very long time, I’ve always told her that I want her to be there on my high school graduation day.”
After his grandmother was diagnosed for the second time, Calderon immediately began thinking of ways he could show her his immense appreciation and love for her.
She began chemotherapy the first week of October, which coincidentally is breast cancer awareness month, and Calderon made it a priority to honor her.
Catholic had three home games that month, but Calderon knew his grandmother would not be able to attend the first two after beginning treatment.
He said he brainstormed with his mother and Catholic head coach Matt Adams. The trio concluded the best chance for Calderon to present flowers to his grandmother would be the Oct. 25 against Choctaw.
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“I knew I was going to have to do it that week,” Calderon said. “Even if the video hadn’t gone viral, just knowing that I could do that for my grandma meant the world to me, and I know it’s something I would never forget. She’s beat breast cancer once and I think she can beat it again. She is a very strong woman. She’s actually doing really well. She finished weekly chemotherapy at the end of November and has sessions less frequently now.”
Some of Calderon’s favorite childhood memories with his grandmother involve her cooking, as he said she is famous for her rice and chicken while her empanadas are his favorite.
He said he’s always been a person that enjoys being outside and his grandmother was always eager to take him fishing, even if it wasn’t among her hobbies. He also reciprocated that selflessness. Though he would have rather been outside at times, he has countless memories of helping his grandmother in the kitchen.
Adams said that he and Calderon have received emails from all over the country and even in other parts of the world.
“I see it as a great blessing,” Calderon said. “Every time someone sees it, I count it as a prayer for her and millions of people have seen it.”
Besides building a winning product on the football field, Adams and his assistants wanted to instill core values into each player.
Catholic’s core values for the 2019 season were love, respect, discipline and hard work.
“Frank is a great example of those core values and he brings them on his own to this program,” Adams said. “He loves his grandmother very much. He is loved back by many and is a great kid that cares about everybody. He is always helpful.”
Frank Calderon’s father, Bryan Calderon, was the youngest of two siblings that Amparo Calderon raised.
Bryan Calderon echoed Frank Calderon’s emotions of immense gratitude for what he called “overwhelming support” from around the world.
“We have all been raised to recognize the extreme importance of family,” Bryan Calderon said. “But what Frank did and the reaction from it…we can’t take full credit for it. It’s a group effort. From the education that Frank has got, to the football coaches allowing Frank to bring those flowers to his grandmother, to the amount of blessing we’ve received around the world.
“We are very, very blessed and it’s been an awesome experience for our family.”
Calderon uploaded the video to his Instagram account on Oct. 25 following the game.
SportsCenter direct messaged Calderon requesting permission to post and Calderon accepted.
The video was shared to the SportsCenter Facebook page on Jan. 15, where it has accumulated five million views, 51,800 likes and 15,970 shares.
Brian Achatz can be reached at email@example.com
This story originally published to pnj.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.