Nightly News   |  May 21, 2010

Funnyman Will Ferrell serious about fighting cancer

Making a Difference: Will Ferrell support for a fraternity brother's Cancer for College program has helped raise funds for scholarships for dozens of young cancer survivors. NBC's Lee Cowan reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

Announcer: you by...

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: All this week we've been featuring celebrities who are making a difference. Tonight it's come to this, Will Ferrell . He made his comedy bones in this building five floors above us as part of the cast of " Saturday Night Live ." He's since moved on to films and raising a family. And while he is still terrifically unstable, and while he's not serious about much, he does have an important cause. The story tonight from NBC 's Lee Cowan .

LEE COWAN reporting: You might have seen this version of Will Ferrell recently. The YouTube video went viral.

Sports Announcer: He's having a beer out there. What's wrong with this?

COWAN: He showed up at a Texas baseball game, pretending to be a minor league pitcher. And in typical Will Ferrell style it soon all went sideways, much to the crowd's delight. Turns out we were behind the scenes that night. Very authentic, very.

Mr. WILL FERRELL: Mm-hmm.

COWAN: Yep. Matches the dome, too. It's good.

Mr. FERRELL: Yeah.

COWAN: Yeah. Watching Will get into character.

Mr. FERRELL: Yeah, not a difference in color at all.

COWAN: He was really here to support his college buddy, Craig Pollard . Craig is a cancer survivor , has been since the days he and Will were fraternity brothers at USC . When Will started doing standup, Craig rarely missed a show.

Mr. FERRELL: Craig was always there. And so -- which is great because I thought, oh, I know that laugh out there and I can keep going on even if I'm -- even if I'm doing terribly right now. So...

COWAN: Will watched his buddy deteriorate from the cancer, only to bounce back and start a charity, Cancer for College , helping survivors with scholarships.

Mr. CRAIG POLLARD: I was kind of at that point where I was really scared whether, you know, I was going to live or not, and I made a promise to God. I just said, you know, `If you get me out of here I'm going to make a difference.'

COWAN: Will had just started at " Saturday Night Live ," and was one of Craig 's very first donors.

Mr. FERRELL: Embarrassingly, I think I wrote him a check for $50, 50 or 100.

COWAN: But as Will 's celebrity rose so did his commitment to the kids his buddy was helping.

Mr. POLLARD: I mean, he doesn't just lend his name. I mean, he spends time with us. I mean, he's involved in some of the decisions we make at the charity.

Mr. FERRELL: If a family has a child that they're putting through treatment, they're not -- they're not thinking about college. They're thinking about the next day.

COWAN: Alexis Growthey was diagnosed with thyroid cancer , derailing her swimming scholarship to Texas A&M .

Ms. ALEXIS GROWTHEY: It was just absolutely like devastating.

COWAN: Because that meant it was over?

Ms. GROWTHEY: Yeah.

COWAN: Her treatment used up all her family's college savings until...

Mr. POLLARD: This is Mr. Will Ferrell .

Ms. GROWTHEY: Hi .

COWAN: ... Cancer for College stepped in.

Ms. GROWTHEY: It'll roughly pay for half my tuition next year.

COWAN: And a night she'll never forget.

Mr. FERRELL: Texas A&M swim team.

Unidentified Woman: All you came to see, there she is.

Mr. FERRELL: Right here. Let's do it.

COWAN: You're ready.

Mr. POLLARD: There is a very serious and empathetic side to him, and I think that's why he's got so many good friendships because he's just a very genuine person.

Mr. FERRELL: For it's one, two, three strikes you're out...

COWAN: It's a side few see. Behind the funnyman is a