(L-R) Tammi, Tommy, Jason, Lloyd, and CJ Carr
The 5th Annual RunTough for ChadTough and the 2nd Annual RunTough for Team Tommy events took place Saturday, Sept. 29, in Saline, Mich. and Allendale, Mich., respectively. The two events combined to raise more than $250,000 for Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) research with more than 2,500 participants.
“RunTough from the start has raised over $850,000,” announced Executive Director Ann Friedholm. “Chad’s story continues to get spread and shared with so many people, and we love that so much about this race.”
This is the first year since Chad Carr passed away on November 23, 2015, that The ChadTough Foundation’s RunTough for ChadTough event has taken place after his September 26 birthday.
“It really helped me to realize how important this race is because (his birthday) was a really hard day,” said foundation co-founder Tammi Carr. “Not only about raising money, but also honoring him and honoring all the other children.”
Olivia Marks, who was diagnosed with DIPG in July 2017, was also at the event with her family and friends including mom, Michelle, and younger sister, Emily. Olivia was the honorary horn-puller for the event, a responsibility that belonged to Chad in 2015 and 2016.
“The first year it was freezing cold, windy, and he did not want to be here,” said foundation co-founder Jason Carr. “He was not in a good mood. We’re trying to make it exciting for him, saying, ‘You’re going to get to pull the horn.’ He didn’t care.
“Then he pulled that horn … People jumped and all of a sudden he was like, ‘I just scared all those people,’ and then he must have pulled that horn 132 times.”
Jason had the chance to meet Olivia before addressing the crowd during the opening ceremonies.
Tammi and CJ Carr visited with Olivia Marks after the race.
“I finally got to meet her – this gorgeous little girl, Olivia Marks,” said Jason. “She’s in the fire truck now, and it was funny to me because she’s sitting there and it was identical to Chad. She’s freezing cold, she does not want to be here!
“So my hope for today is that that girl has a great day. I hope when she blows that horn and you run by and you give her a wave or a thumbs up – that’s my goal for today is to find a way to have a great day.”
The highlight of her day came at the end when she met Tammi and CJ Carr, Chad’s eldest brother.
“Her favorite part of the event,” said Olivia’s mom, Michelle, “was showing Tammi her Paw Patrol book and giving CJ a pink sticker to match his pink pants!!!”
Colt DelVerne, the son of former Michigan kicker Jeff DelVerne, was also supposed to pull the fire horn.
“We got a call last night and Colt was not feeling good, so he will not be here today,” said Jason Carr. “That’s really the reality of this disease. There are good days and there are bad days.”
The family of Carter Jones, who passed away in 2013, was at the race along with more than 30 participants for “Team Carter.” Connie, Carter’s mom, was approached by her boss at Ask Services, who wanted to do something to honor her son.
“They’ve have been so supportive and amazing through this whole journey,” said Connie. “He asked if I would be interested in getting involved in RunTough to do something in remembrance of Carter.”
As the Carr family was speaking in Saline, Amanda Ruddy was doing the same across the state in Allendale, where supporters were gathered to honor Tommy Ruddy, who passed away on Nov. 3, 2016 after an 11-week battle with DIPG.
“We would like to thank Jason and Tammi Carr and The ChadTough Foundation for allowing us to partner with a tremendous organization that allows us to both honor our son and fight back against the disease that stole him, DIPG,” said Amanda.
“That is why we all gather today; to remember Tommy and celebrate his life and spread awareness about a rare, but prevalent, disease right here in West Michigan. We also honor and remember Emma Buron and Rory Bent-Buist, two precious little girls who also were taken by pediatric cancer.”
Emma’s dad, Ken Buron, won the race in Allendale and will run the Chicago Marathon next week for ChadTough in honor of his little girl. Mary Bent-Buist, Rory’s mom, created beautiful chalk art for the event.
Team Tommy had a candy shop in honor of Emma and a chalk garden in honor of Rory.
“It is truly inspiring to see this community come together to honor our Tommy, but today is much larger than Tommy,” said Amanda during her opening ceremonies.
“Today you are running with individuals covering all 50 states and beyond for The ChadTough Foundation and the fight against pediatric brain cancer.”
A United Team
Since 2014 when Chad Carr was diagnosed with DIPG, a team of individuals has been leading this event in Saline. For the past two years, the same has happened in Allendale for Tommy Ruddy.
Over that span, DIPG research has caught fire, with hope rising for the first time in 50 years.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities in my life to be on a lot of great teams,” said former University of Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr. “I want to thank you for being here today, for being a part of this team. I’m proud to call you a teammate.
“Remember this: there will be a day in the future where we convene again here to have a great party to celebrate the cure of DIPG. You and your family will be a part of it.”