Have one conversation with Jim Burns, 49, and it’s clear he is not an ordinary man.
He will tell you he has been through a lot, including an almost-fatal concussion in February of 2015. It was that experience that left him wanting to make a difference with something greater than himself.
“I realized that I had to find a cause,” he said. “I was given a second chance and I want to make the lives of others better. Then, I saw the story on Chad Carr and I knew I found my cause.”
The story Jim saw was the one that aired on ESPN Gameday on November 28, five days after five-year-old Chad succumbed to Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, or DIPG. Some shed tears watching that story. Many sobbed. It tugged at heartstrings and urged people to action.
It left Jim thinking big things. He ultimately reached out to Tammi Carr.
“Jim told me he was planning to walk from Philadelphia to Ann Arbor in Chad’s name,” she recalls. “I was stunned and honestly didn’t know what to believe … 600 miles is a long way!
“Now to see him actually doing this is beyond humbling. What he is doing is furthering our cause in an incredible way.”
Jim’s walk has sparked donations to ChadTough and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia — the co-beneficiary of his efforts — but it’s the awareness that has the Carr family so moved. While dollars are undoubtedly important, awareness is a powerful thing.
In May, Humans of New York did a series on Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where Chad Carr received surgery as part of a clinical trial. Dr. Mark Souweidane, who has dedicated his life to to finding a cure for DIPG, was part of that series.
The stories were so powerful, the effort raised $1 Million for Dr. Souweidane alone. What did it take? Awareness.
Jason and Tammi Carr, along with other families who have suffered through this incurable disease, need more of that awareness for DIPG. Jim Burns is now a part of that.
“What he is doing is incredible,” said Tammi. “He’s had news stories written about him, he’s thrown out ceremonial first pitches, and — probably most importantly — organically spread the word with everyone he has met.
“He now has a special place in our hearts.”
Look for the Helpers
Fred Rogers, an ordained minister who went on to host a children’s TV show, is quoted talking about tragedies in life.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping,'” said Rogers.
It’s what has been so beautiful about Jim Burns and his walk. Not only is Jim a helper in Chad’s story, he has ordained countless others to do the same.
One story that is so moving is within a video he recorded on June 14. He talks spirituality, something so important to the Carrs, as he walked through the desolate hills of Pennsylvania. He meets obstacle after obstacle as he looks for somewhere to sleep, forced to keep moving in the pitch black of night.
The Spirit of Chad Carr is Real – and it’s Spectacular!!!!
Posted by James Burns on Tuesday, June 14, 2016
“Fatigue hits me like I have never, ever had fatigue hit me,” says Jim. “But I know I can’t stop.
“I actually look to the stars and straight up ahead of me is a yellow star. I know a little bit about astronomy and I recognize this is Venus. Let’s call it Maize, we’ll go with the Michigan theme here. ‘Oh my goodness, it’s yellow. That’s gonna be my beacon. That’s gonna be my way to know I’m always going west, I’m gonna be fine.'”
The walk doesn’t get any easier, though, and Jim decides to make a special plea.
“I actually look up to the sky and I say, ‘Chad Carr, you and I are teammates brother. I need you now. You must guide me to where I’ve gotta go,'” he recalls.
“And I swear to God, I’m not making this up, within 30 seconds, there’s no pain in my feet and I’m walking … and I don’t know how I’m walking … and I keep walking … and I just keep walking. I don’t even feel myself walking anymore, but I just keep going.”
Jim eventually makes it to a local hospital where the staff was incredibly kind and allowed him to sleep in a waiting room for as long as he wanted.
As Jim finishes his story, he gets choked up talking about Chad and what happened that night.
“I’m telling you, I’m a changed man forever,” he said. “I know without a doubt, Chad Carr, you carried me for 11 miles the other night and man, I am so proud of you because there’s no way I could have done it without you man. Absolutely no way.”
More Than Money
Jim set out on this journey to raise money for DIPG research, but I contend that he will raise much more than that. Whether he raises a dollar or one million dollars, Jim is touching lives through the incredible spirit of Chad Carr.
“Sharing our faith through Chad’s journey is so important to us,” said Tammi, “and this is a huge testament to that. Whether it’s the kindness shown by others or this incredible walk that Jim is completing, this is honoring our baby in so many amazing ways.”
You can donate directly to Jim’s efforts by visiting ChadOn. You can also be a helper by spreading the word about Jim and the dire need for DIPG research, helping The ChadTough Foundation get to its ultimate mission one step at a time.