The 21st Annual Bobby Mitchell's Autotrader.com Hall of Fame Golf Classic, benefitting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, kicked off Friday at Lansdowne Resort.
The event is expected to feature 45 NFL and NBA Hall of Famers, including former Redskins: Charley Taylor, Darrell Green, Sam Huff, Sonny Jurgensen, Chris Hanburger, Ken Houston, and Bobby Mitchell.
Friday morning's media session covered the emotional spectrum from light-hearted to somber, as the Hall of Famers enjoyed reconnecting but remembered why everyone was there.
"The thing that really jumped out at me was when I found out that this disease was attacking young folks," Mitchell explained. "And that's where the athlete kicks in, because when you say 'young folks,' athletes kick in."
Mitchell has used this platform as a Hall of Famer to attract a host of former superstars, which in turn brings more attention to the cause.
"I made the decision that if I'm going to do this, I want my fellow Hall of Famers with me," he said.
In 2010, the event raised more than $630,000. This year, the society hopes to top that number as Hall of Famers and superstars from 25 different organizations will be in attendance.
"People understand why retired athletes come: we've actually seen results over the years with our own eyes," said former Redskins tight end Doc Walker, who helped emcee the event. "We've seen people go through treatments and we've seen results."
Walker has been personally involved with the event for more than 15 years and credits Mitchell and the celebrity atmosphere for the success.
"There's nothing like this [event], in terms of Hall of Famers," he explained. "That's what makes this thing so unique."
Leukemia is responsible for more deaths than any other cancer among children under the age of 20. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is the world's largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research and outreach.The society has raised more than $750 million for research, and Mitchell's efforts alone have raised more than $7 million since 1988.
The Golf Class features several "Patient Heroes," or young people that are battling blood cancers and can put a name and face to the cause. Friday's media session featured Taylor Law, an 11-year-old girl from Olney, Md., battling leukemia. As of last December, her cancer is in remission.
"My life has totally changed, and I can't help what happened to me because it just happens," she writes in her biography. "I am in remission now, and I am so happy to have been asked to be an honored patient hero, and I thank all of you for your support and encouragement."
Mitchell was a wide receiver in Washington from 1962-1968 before joining the team's front office from 1969-2002. He finished his illustrious playing career with 14,078 all-purpose yards and 91 touchdowns.
In addition to his Hall of Fame induction, he is also listed on the Redskins Ring of Fame and was recognized as one of the 70 Greatest Redskins. His presence in the Washington area has only grown since his retirement.
"I don't know anything else but people," Mitchell said about his inspiration. "And that's what I've used to present to my fellow Hall of Famers. That's all I present to them: young folks, and people."
The main event of the weekend is Sunday's Golf Classic, which is open to the public, at the Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, Va. Games and prizes are available in addition to the tournament, and all proceeds from admission fees and raffles will all benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.