Dalton Risner wanted to use football to do good for the world. A simple man who didn’t need much to be happy, Risner grew up on a farm in the small town of Wiggins, Colorado, impacting lives of friends and the people in a town with a population of just 800.
Risner was beginning to find out the type of person he wanted to be as his NFL career was becoming a reality. He was meant to help others on the days he wasn’t punishing defensive linemen in the trenches as the Denver Broncos’ starting left guard.
“I was in the process of creating my foundation (RisnerUp) and the impact I was able to make, it was making me feel good,” Risner told CBSSports.com. “This is what I wanted to do. This is what makes me happy. I want to make people happy by having a positive impact on their life.”
What Risner didn’t expect to find was a family. Enter the Hamptons.
In college, Risner got involved with Camp Hope, a summer camp that gave children with cancer a safe haven to be kids — allowing them to forget about the battles they face every day. Risner wanted to do more.
“I reached out to Kansas State asked if they could do some research on any child that was battling cancer. I wanted to be a big brother to that person and become a positive impact on their life,” Risner said. “I was on the board on Camp Hope and helping those kids battling cancer and putting a smile on their face became a passion of mine.”
The Hampton family in Topeka (about an hour away from Kansas State) became a match. Will and Steph Hampton worked multiple jobs to make ends meet and support their three children (Tobias, Ella, and Kayden). Kayden was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and was paralyzed at age 3, but was able to walk again at the age of 4 as his parents were fighting to save his life.
Just a junior at Kansas State, Risner was hoping to help. The Hamptons had no idea who the All-American lineman was.
“They weren’t just going to let anyone into Kayden’s life,” Risner said. “They wanted to make sure someone was getting involved with them for the right reasons.”
A trip to Golden Corral was all the Hamptons needed to know Risner was full of love.
“Their family didn’t eat out, they were making ends meet wherever they could,” Risner said. “They didn’t have the money and worked two jobs apiece. I had about $183 in my account and I paid for the $100 dinner. They were so grateful and our relationship blossomed from there.”
Risner did everything he could to see Kayden and brighten his day as the young man was fighting for his life. Just coming down to Topeka and taking Kayden out for ice cream was enough for Risner to be welcomed into the Hampton family.
“I made a promise to Kayden wherever I went to the NFL, I’d come back to see him,” Risner said. “Through the RisnerUp Foundation, I go see him. He’s one of the special people in my life and he has become part of my family.”
A special gift for the Hamptons
Kayden Hampton went into remission by age 6 and Risner was with the Hampton family for his last bloodwork. Now 9, Kayden has been in remission for the past three years. Risner couldn’t believe all the sacrifices the Hamptons made for their children, never asking him for help even after he was with the Denver Broncos.
“They were willing to do anything for their children, and anything to make ends meet,” Risner said. “I’ve seen them overcome obstacle after obstacle.”
Risner found an opportunity to thank the Hamptons for allowing him to be a part of Kayden’s life. Will and Steph Hampton were together for 15 years, but never tied the knot due to their financial situation. A wedding wasn’t in the cards, so Risner took charge in giving them what they always wanted — a ring.
Risner had gotten engaged to his longtime girlfriend Whitney in March, and used the help of Kay Jewelers to make the Hamptons’ dream come true, too. The company was happy to help, thanks to the experience Risner had in his engagement plans.
“They stood out and made it unique for me,” Risner said. “They were so thoughtful on what Whitney and I wanted. They helped with that and made it an awesome experience. I wanted to keep working with them and the great things they do for people.”
Risner was able to show his thanks to the Hamptons with a ring of their own. All they wanted was a wedding. Risner helped make it happen, and hopes that feeling he experienced of helping a family in need continues for years to come. He knows he was put on this earth to do good. Seeing the smile on Steph Hampton’s face and the impact he’s made on Kayden’s life meant everything to him.
For all the Hamptons did for Risner, the Broncos lineman wanted to give back.
“I can see this lasting my whole career,” Risner said. “If we can make half the impact on other families like we did with the Hamptons, we’re going to be just fine. That was a huge moment and milestone in their life. It’s a tremendous feeling I want to continue.”