Bryan Soderlind
October 01, 2015 06:10 PM

By now, everyone pretty much knows what Tim Tebow is all about.

The former quarterback may not be playing in the NFL, but he is still the face of his charitable organization, the Tim Tebow Foundation, which has several facets to help sick and underprivileged children around the world.

But life can still be unpredictable for Tebow. On Tuesday afternoon, the 28-year-old found himself with a few free hours between meetings. He spoke with Erik Dellenback, the president and executive director of his foundation, and they hatched a plan.

Tebow would pay a surprise visit to Nathaniel Nelson, a 13-year-old boy who is battling cancer. His reaction: a touching mixture of laughter and tears.

When Nathaniel was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia on August 6, he had a plan: to eventually attend the University of Florida – Tebow’s alma mater – and find a cure for cancer.

“We started hearing all about him,” Dellenback tells PEOPLE. “We got about 10 or 12 messages. So we knew who he was; and we decided to go visit him. We didn’t call ahead.”

When Tebow got to the hospital, the surprised nurses told Nathaniel that someone wanted to take a photo of his room. Seconds later, in walked Tebow.

“It was amazing,” Dellenback says. “They talked for awhile, and then played video games for about 40 minutes. Nathaniel beat Tim, which was outstanding.” Tebow then prayed with the family and gave Nathaniel some gifts.

Tim Tebow
Bryan Soderlind

Nathaniel, who had played as an offensive lineman on his own school football team, then took Tebow to the other floors to visit other kids. “The whole thing was awesome,” says Dellenback. “We spent a couple of hours there at the hospital.”

Tebow says his charity is the most important work he does. “Everyone has to find something greater than themselves to do,” Tebow has told PEOPLE. “That’s why we’re here. That’s our purpose.”

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