Dont'a Hightower, Madison Kocian and DeAndre Jordan were the honorees at this year's Sports Spectacular, an event in Los Angeles that has raised more than $26 million since 1986 for Cedars-Sinai in the fight against diabetes and obesity.
For Hightower, the campaign to raise awareness is personal because his mother, L'Tanya, was diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago.
"She's my sword and my shield," Hightower says of his mom.
Last year, Hightower helped Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), co-chairs of the U.S. Senate Diabetes Caucus, push for legislation that would be favorable in battling the disease.
Hightower, a New England linebacker, sparked the Patriots' comeback win in Super Bowl LI against Atlanta with one of the game's pivotal plays. Nearing the midway point of the fourth quarter, the Patriots trailed 28-12. But Hightower's sack and forced fumble on Matt Ryan gave the ball to the Patriots at Atlanta's 25. New England scored five plays later and cut the lead to 28-20.
Kocian, who won an Olympic gold medal for the United States as part of the Final Five women's gymnastics team, is a freshman at UCLA. She is interested in becoming a pediatrician.