Actors Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen Visit Huntsman Cancer Institute Patients and Staff
Actors Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen spent two hours visiting patients at Huntsman Cancer Institute on Sunday, January 22. The “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Captain America: Civil War” co-stars were in town promoting their Sundance film “Wind River.” Before flying back to Los Angeles, they took time to stop by the hospital and talk with cancer patients and staff.
Patient Jared Stubbs was so excited to meet with the actors, the nurses say he asked for hair gel before the visit. “It was awesome!” Stubbs said. “I’ve always watched [Jeremy’s] movies, so it was kind of unexpected. When they first told me about it, I thought, they’re not going to bring him in!”
When Stubbs got a chance to meet the actors, he made sure to share what a big fan he was. “Hello, Sir. I watch all your movies!” he told Renner as they shook hands.
Renner laughed and joked back, “All of them? Oh my goodness! Thank you, thank you! I don’t think my mom’s seen all my movies. That’s amazing!”
Renner asked Stubbs how he was feeling. The actor also shared why these types of visits are so special to him. “I get so emotionally invested in people with struggles and adversity,” Renner told Stubbs. “I gather so much strength when I witness people going through adversities – adversities that may be different from my own. That, to me, is inspiring. If I can brighten someone’s day, my day gets just as brightened and strengthened by that.”
Stubbs was in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy for stage four small cell lung cancer. He was also preparing to start radiation treatment. He says with everything he’s been through, the visit meant a lot to him.
“What it does is it just gives you that extra jolt, [knowing] that there’s people out there that care – people that want to do things to help. I think it’s neat that there are big stars that want to do that kind of stuff. [Jeremy was] fantastic – really nice guy, just personable, down to earth! He was willing to answer my off-the-wall questions. I’d just ask him stuff I didn’t think he’d answer and he’d laugh about it and answer it. I thought that was cool. [And Elizabeth] was awesome!”
Ovarian cancer patient Kitty Conover, who was recovering from surgery, was also a little starstruck. “[Jeremy] had soft hands,” she raved after he left. “He had soft hands. Oh, my gosh, yes. It’s kind of funny! He grabbed my hand right away. That was very nice. He has strength in his hands.”
The visit put a big smile on her face. Conover, her husband and two sons were all watching football when the actors entered her room. They ended up chatting a lot about the sport. “[Jeremy] and my son are 49ers fans,” Conover says. “[We talked about] football, the new Avengers movie coming up and their [Sundance premiere.]” Conover’s son showed the co-stars his “Captain America” jacket. Then everyone took photos together.
“I thought they were awesome!” says Conover. “I loved it. It was very, very nice of them to take the time out of their life to come visit. They didn’t have to do it. They didn’t know me from Adam. I will remember for a long time how they took time out of their day, and hopefully I can [pay] it forward in that way, too – so somebody else can get the good feeling that they gave me.”
In all, the celebrities visited six patients in the ICU, surgical oncology, medical oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant units. Their last stop was the room of patient Carlee Bradford, who had spent four days in the hospital receiving chemotherapy treatments for non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. She said being in the hospital can get monotonous, so the visit gave her a fun activity to anticipate. “It was fun to see some faces you only see on the big screen – and see them in real life,” she said. “I thought it was really nice of them to take their time to come and say hi to us. A cold January day and all the sudden you have a celebrity in your hospital room! It was cool. My parents got to meet him. I have sisters that were excited to see some pictures. It was fun.”
While their main purpose was visiting patients, Renner and Olsen also stopped along the way to visit and take photographs with the Huntsman Cancer Institute staff. The nursing staff ate up the opportunity to meet the celebs.
Sasha Wyckoff, an R.N. at Huntsman Cancer Institute, says, “Those two VIPs were little miracles in and of themselves. The positivity and laughter that I heard and felt from my staff during and after the visit lifted all of our spirits. Those of us who hold space for all the fear and heartbreak and hope of our beautiful patients, day in and day out, can use a little love, too. The fact that Mr. Renner and Ms. Olsen were so gracious, and took the extra time to acknowledge the staff, had a huge impact on everyone. It meant a lot to the staff.”
Public Relations - Huntsman Cancer Institute
About Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah
Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) is one of the world’s top academic research and cancer treatment centers. HCI manages the Utah Population Database - the largest genetic database in the world, with more than 16 million records linked to genealogies, health records, and vital statistics. Using this data, HCI researchers have identified several cancer-causing genes, including the genes responsible for melanoma, colon and breast cancer, and paraganglioma. HCI is a member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (a 27-member alliance of the world's leading cancer centers) and is a National Cancer Institute-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. HCI treats patients with all forms of cancer and operates several high-risk clinics that focus on melanoma and breast, colon, and pancreas cancers. The HCI Cancer Learning Center for patient and public education contains one of the nation's largest collections of cancer-related publications. The institute is named after Jon M. Huntsman, a Utah philanthropist, industrialist, and cancer survivor.