BOSTON -- Jon Lester's smile tends to change on certain occasions.
The most common smile is the one seen when he's on the baseball field or engaging in a friendly conversation. It's jovial. It's polite. But he does better.
The big smile makes its way out less frequently. But a successful battle with a rare form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a blood cancer, when he was 22 years old gave Lester a lot to be happy about. He tries to share the happiness with others who are dealing with similar illnesses. Children battling cancer are often on the receiving end of Lester's graciousness.
He was in a particularly good mood on Monday night, the Red Sox's last off-day before they embark on 13 straight games, as he hosted NVRQT Night at the House of Blues on Landsdowne Street. It was the second annual event for his charity, which raises money for the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation.
"Obviously, anytime you're dealing with kids it pulls at your heart a little bit," he said. "I got to meet a kid out in L.A. on this last trip named Zane and he really hit home with me. Getting to see [the children] smile and having a good time, going to a baseball game or just getting their minds off going through treatment or being in isolation for six weeks like he was -- it's the little things we can do for these kids and hopefully put a smile on their face.
"It's something that's really easy for us to get them out to a baseball game. Zane got to come to a game with his family, watch batting practice and be around us and just be away for a day. And I think especially what I went through, my treatment, that was something that was very important to me. I was trying to have as normal days as I could without thinking about treatment, away from thinking about being sick or anything like that.
"I feel like, kids, they're so naïve to the process of what's going on that it's more of a hand they're dealt. They go about it the best they can every day. That's what I like about dealing with kids -- they have the same attitude as I do as far as obstacles, [which is], 'What do I need to try to do to beat it?'"
It's not uncommon to see a group of children who are currently battling or have battled cancer waiting for Lester behind red tape during Red Sox batting practice. Routinely, Lester stops over and spends time with them. He takes pictures, signs autographs on NVRQT baseballs (specially designed all-white baseballs that provide for easy signatures and extra space to write encouraging notes) and shares his story.
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said he notices Lester interacting with children in every city during road trips.
"I always see him taking time out of his day, regardless if he's pitching that day or if he's off," Saltalamacchia said. "Just talking to different people, just sharing stories, trying to forget what they're going through sometimes and remember the good times."
Lester's event Monday included a star-studded lineup of celebrities. Olympic gymnast and gold medalist Aly Raisman, a Massachusetts native, brought her family. Comedian Josh Wolf was there with Sarah Colonna, a regular on Chelsea Lately. Country artist David Nail was joined by Dalton and the Sheriffs for an after-party at Game On. And teammates Craig Breslow, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront and Mike Napoli joined manager John Farrell in support.
"I feel like if there's a face for the foundation, [Lester] is obviously very fitting," Breslow said. "The fact that he's battled cancer and he's healthy now -- he's gone on to have a successful career, both before and after. I feel like he's the perfect guy for the reason that it's important to raise awareness and raise funding for cancer research."
On the mound, Lester has allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his last four starts.
It's been a positive month for the Boston lefty.
To donate to NVRQT, visit https://www.facebook.com/NVRQT/app_130477137083548.