$9 at a time, Lions fans raise over $22K to support Matthew and Kelly Stafford's favorite cause

Fans poured out their support for the Staffords' favorite charitable organization after news spread that Matthew and the team had agreed to seek a trade and his time in Detroit was ending. Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Melissa Baumbick’s phone started going off Saturday night. The director of outreach and development for the Acoustic Neuroma Association, Baumbick had Twitter notifications set for when her organization gets a mention.

Usually things are quiet. Then, on Saturday night, her phone kept going off. News had broken Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had requested a trade and the franchise he had played for the past 12 seasons was going to seek out a deal to move him.

Lions fans, wanting to support their all-time franchise leader in every major passing category, began to organize on Reddit, Twitter and the Pride of Detroit website to donate $9 apiece to the Acoustic Neuroma Association in honor of Stafford and his wife, Kelly, who was diagnosed with the rare brain tumor in 2019.

By the time Baumbick could check their donation information, over 100 donations had come in. Baumbick immediately texted her boss, and throughout Sunday, they began to watch as more and more people donated $9 -- sometimes more -- in honor of the Staffords.

As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 1,575 people had donated, raising more than $22,000 for the ANA.

“This kind of awareness is huge for us. It really is huge for us,” Baumbick said. “So just being able to get the word out there so that doctors are aware of it and can diagnose it correctly and we don’t have misdiagnoses and also so patients are aware of it. And even so far as Kelly has talked about sort of the things that she’s dealt with following her surgery, because there are sometimes things that become chronic conditions and go on following surgery that become sort of life-changing issues for people moving forward.

“Most patients lose some hearing; some patients lose all hearing in one ear. So that becomes something that they have to deal with moving forward, so having that sort of awareness is huge.”

Baumbick said money donated to the ANA goes to develop educational, support and informational programs about acoustic neuromas.

Kelly Stafford had dizziness in January 2019 and was diagnosed later that winter with the acoustic neuroma. She had surgery April 17, 2019, and then had a long recovery that she wrote about for ESPN in October 2019.

At the time, she thanked the people of Michigan for showing up for her at one of her lowest points.

“I'll say this: Detroit and Michigan really showed up. The Lions were incredible,” Kelly Stafford wrote in 2019. “They told Matthew to take all of the time and space he needed. And then, there were the fans. The amount of letters that poured into the facility -- so many prayers, a lot of holy water -- it was remarkable. Matthew joked that our house looked like a bootleg flower shop.”

Kelly Stafford said the entire experience endeared her to the city and the state more than ever -- something she reiterated in an Instagram post Monday addressing her and Matthew’s potential departure.

And now, as she and her husband likely prepare to leave Detroit, they are doing so again by donating to the charity Matthew Stafford has touted on his cleats the past two seasons during the My Cause, My Cleats campaign.

“We are grateful, so grateful to Matthew Stafford and to Kelly Stafford especially for her willingness to be open and honest about her journey and her recovery and how she’s done with it,” Baumbick said. “She’s been not really a spokesperson necessarily but somebody who has done a lot for the acoustic neuroma community and what we call acoustic neuroma warriors.

“And with Matthew’s support and his support of her and his family and even the Detroit Lions support that message has gone far and wide.”