JONESBORO, AR -- Comedian Robin Williams currently stars in the film, "Old Dogs." But, it was a young boy from Jonesboro who showed him some new tricks. St. Jude cancer patient Ben Sherman appears with the legend of screen and stage in a TV commercial. It's all about "thanks" and "giving." The dynamic duo brings home the message to viewers all over the country.
"Ben and I like the same things," said Robin Williams in the TV spot. "We like soccer and video games. Yeah, we have a lot in common."
Not many 8-year-old boys get to work with the likes of Robin Williams.
"It was awesome," said Ben. "I never thought I'd be on TV."
But, six months ago, Ben--diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia and a patient at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital--was selected to appear in the spot.
"My hair's growing back," said Ben. "Well, the hair on my back is growing!"
"I was supposed to say, 'my hair's growing back' and after that Robin was supposed to say, 'Well, we don't have everything in common,'" said Ben.
"He just cracked joke after joke," said Jackie Sherman, Ben's mother. "If you laughed a little bit, he would continue on with it--until you were just rolling on the ground."
Jackie and Ben left the rest of the Sherman family behind to travel to San Francisco for the taping. During that time, Williams signed autographs for Ben and his brothers, Matt and Brooks and sister, Betsy. That one's on the script from his latest movie, "Old Dogs." Momentos from a most unusual day.
"It was just the strangest thing to see your 7-year-old son hanging out with Robin Williams," said Jackie
"He's almost the funniest guy in the world," said Ben.
To see Ben laugh and play is a blessing for the Shermans. They went from seeing him play sports to not wanting to get out of bed.
"They found a tumor on my right lung," said Ben. "And so they sent the blood work to St. Jude and found out it was leukemia."
Then came rounds of chemotherapy and spinal taps. Ben's father, Mike, says St. Jude's past research is what's helping his son and others like him to beat back cancer... And for that he can't say thank you enough.
"One group of people that get left out are the children who have been patients in the past," said Mike. "They all contribute to the success of Ben and the success they've had for the last 25 years."
"We've increased the survival rate from 4 percent to 94 percent," said Robin Williams in the TV spot.
A statistic not lost on this family... especially not today.
"Thank you, oh God, for the gifts we're about to receive from they bounty through Christ our Lord," said Betsy Sherman, Ben's older sister.
"Just everything that happened to us was such a huge blessing. Every small favor. Every small prayer brought us to where he is now," said Jackie.
Ben's far from the finish line in his cancer treatment. He still has a year and a half to go. His dad plans to show support by running the St. Jude marathon.
"It's kind of emotional when you go to the marathon which we're running December 5th," said Mike. "You'll see parents that are standing their with pictures of their children thanking you for what they're doing."
Ben's TV spots with Robin Williams will air on stations all across the country, just like it does here at KAIT.
The campaign features celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Antonio Banderas and NFL player Reggie Bush. But, the real stars are the children.
Their laughter warms your heart... be it on a little screen or on the faces of those who love you... the blessing is being here.
Ben has been incredibly brave over the course of his treatment. His leukemia cell mass was in such a precarious position that he could not be sedated for the surgery and many of his early procedures. Much of it was very painful, but his parents say he never complained.