Our fundraising is making a difference!
September 17, 2017
I remember meeting Chad, Tammi & Jason for the first time at the Toledo Zoo. They were there on a field trip with CJ's 1st grade class. I remember talking about travel baseball - we had just started with TJ and they were interested in how it all worked. Just a normal family ... 3 young boys, enjoying the beginning of school years and competitive sports.
Tammi & I ended up working together on a project for the Foundation for Saline Area Schools. Our work eventually led to the Next Gen initiative, which continues to make me so proud! Her strengths were my weaknesses, and vice versa. We made a pretty strong team. I learned she was tenacious. Once she locked in on something she felt needed to happen, she did everything in her power to make it so. And trust me, I learned it's pretty darn hard to tell that woman, 'no'.
On September 23rd, 2014, I expected to see she and Jason at the annual Fall Kick Off for the FSAS. Someone told me Chad had fallen and broken his nose, so they had to take him to the ER. Sounded innocent enough. Certainly a possible scenario in my house, that's for sure. The next morning, a simple text to a mutual friend to check on Chad ended with the response: "It's really bad. They're saying it's a brain tumor. They're saying Chad only has a few months to live."
After a few tears, I remember thinking that day, and for months to come, "Not possible. No way Tammi will allow that to happen. I've seen this woman in action. Chad will be the exception. End of story."
But DIPG has NO EXCEPTIONS. At least not yet. 0% suvival. We are talking about children here. Children that are robbed of everything. Families that are forever fractured by losing a child.
What can I do to help? I dropped off a box full of items that could be used as presents for birthday parties, along with wrapping paper, so when CJ & Tommy were invited to friends' parties, no shopping was required. That's all I could come up with. That's it. Along with jumping on the Meal Train.
There were times my mind wandered to a place where I was the one losing a child. I'm positive what I could imagine couldn't come close, at all, to what Tammi & Jason were feeling. But I knew enough that they were facing incredible, deep, forever pain. And I would constantly think, "What can I do?"
And the path eventually showed itself. The Lord had a plan. My job was to follow it. Tammi & my time together working with the Foundation for Saline Area Schools - matching her fundraising expertise with my strategic planning expertise - was actually His way of setting us up to work together on a pretty big challenge. It was time to change that 0% survival rate. And so, The ChadTough Foundation was born. And eventually, after a lot of coaxing (remember how I said how hard it was to tell Tammi 'no'?), I accepted the position of Executive Director of The ChadTough Foundation.
I truly believe, with all of my heart, that I am following God's plan for me. If I'm honest, I have had the thoughts, "Is there really a point? Is it realistic to think we can truly make a change here?" God must know when you truly need his reassurance. Just in the past week, I have listened to DIPG experts from Northwestern and University of Michigan. A quote I will never lose from an expert in the field - "I truly believe we will find a cure for DIPG in my lifetime." And then he went on to explain why he believed this. I AM a believer. And I hope I never lose that belief.
I'm telling you ... and I hope you know me well enough to believe me ... some really smart doctors across the country really, truly, are making real progress against this monster. And I promise you, what they are learning as they study the most complex form of pediatric brain cancer WILL cure other types of cancer.
At the end of my life, whenever that may be, I will look back and know that I made a difference in the lives of children diagnosed with brain cancer. I will know that there are kids who survived because of the work I did. And I will know that there are families out there that have been spared of the permanent, debilitating pain I have to watch my friends face on a daily basis.
As a final note, I want to thank Jon, TJ, Ally, Ryan & Eric for supporting my decision to direct a lot of my energy toward The ChadTough Foundation. It's not always convenient, and it sometimes stresses me out, but at the end of the day, how could I make any other choice?
What can I do to help? That's what I asked myself over and over at the beginning. The Lord answered. So here I am.
What can you do to help? Either sign up as a runner (in Saline, Grand Rapids, or virtually - which means we will send you a shirt, a bib, and a finishing award and you can run whenever, wherever, and for whatever distance you want), or donate to support our efforts.
Together, we WILL find a cure. We WILL save lives. We WILL make a difference!
Thank you for your support!