(March 7, 2019)
Six months ago, Tammi Carr asked Mandy Tousa if she and her son, Cooper, would participate in Arthur Murray’s Dancing with the Michigan Stars to benefit The ChadTough Foundation. Despite some nervousness (“I was freaking out”), she said yes.
Fast forward to Thursday and she and Cooper – along with their dance partner, Bupe Mulenga – were the opening act in the event at The Kensington Hotel that raised close to $100,000 for diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) research.
Cooper, a soft-spoken six-year old and Chad’s best friend, turned in a confident performance that included pockets of glitter, an orange bow tie, and the floss.
“He told me he was going to picture Chad in one of those seats and that he would be laughing because Chad would be laughing at him,” Mandy said afterward.
“Last night, he clutched his little stuffed dog that Chad gave him and said, ‘Chad will be watching me.’ He was so confident and so sure that Chad would be right there with him. They just had a special bond. There’s no way to describe that.”
Cooper’s love for Chad hasn’t faded over the three-plus years since his best friend passed away. While he wishes he could play with Chad, he knows he’s happy and pain-free in heaven.
“He’s asked me to use my phone and when I ask him why, he’ll say, ‘I just want to call Jesus and be able to talk to Chad,’” said Mandy. “Another time he asked me if I could get him an airplane ticket to heaven to go visit Chad.”
Witnessing the way Cooper has processed the loss of Chad has taught his mom a lot about coping with grief.
“He just remembers all the good about Chad,” she said. “He remembers all the fun about him.”
Cooper honored Chad as the opening act and 12-year-old Mia DelVerne honored her brother, Colt, in the show’s final performance. Colt passed away in November after a 13-month battle with DIPG.
Mia delivered an energetic performance that brought the audience to its feet.
“I’m so proud of her,” said mom, Shannon. “I could tell Colt was watching us tonight. He’s so happy, and it just really shined through her. Colt loved to dance to songs like that. He wasn’t a good dancer by any stretch, but he certainly loved it and had fun doing it. I could see that in her tonight.”
Nettie Boivin, mom to Julian, joked that she tried to find a way out of accepting Tammi’s invitation to participate in Dancing with the Michigan Stars. Once she accepted, however, she knew it was the right decision.
Nettie and husband, Brad, announced in January that they were dissolving their foundation to join The ChadTough Foundation as a partner family as a way to honor Julian, who passed away in 2011.
“We preach the whole ‘be brave’ idea, and it was the perfect segue to be our first ChadTough fundraiser heading into 2019,” she said. “We’ve raised more than $12,000 thanks to more than 150 friends and family, and I am so grateful.”
The ChadTough Connection
Nine other participants graced the dance floor on Thursday, each with a special backstory leading up to support of The ChadTough Foundation and DIPG research.
- FOX 2 news reporter Amy Andrews has covered The ChadTough Foundation for years, helping tell the Carr family’s story. Amy performed the hustle and won the award for best costume
- Deb Brown has been a big supporter of ChadTough since she arrived in Ann Arbor with her husband, Don, defensive coordinator for the Michigan Wolverines. Deb wowed the judges and the audience with her tango, taking home the judges’ choice for best performance.
- Martin Bouma-Quinn is one of the area’s top realtors and has been a ChadTough supporter through garage sales and making other gifts to support mission. Martin performed the rumba and won the award for “most romantic” performance.
- Kathy and Richard Genthe performed the cha cha, taking home the award for “most theatrical” performance. The Genthe family has been a loyal supporter of ChadTough from the beginning. They sponsor the VIP reception at the foundation’s annual gala, and their granddaughter, Emma, recently held her own swim-a-thon fundraiser to benefit ChadTough.
- Former NFL and Michigan offensive lineman Jon Jansen turned in an impressive hustle, winning “most unique.” Jon has been a friend of Tammi and Jason’s since their college days, when he played for Coach Lloyd Carr and was captain of the 1997 national championship team.
- Lindsey Jones and her husband, Sam, are the donors of the famous “ChadTough mobile” through their dealership CR Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Adrian. Lindsey impressed the audience with her samba, taking home the people’s choice award after raising more than $26,000 for the foundation.
- Jonathan Kronberg, owner of O3 Sports Training in Saline, showed off his moves with a Charleston and winning the “most dramatic” award. Jonathan has led ChadTough fundraisers through O3 and has coached both CJ and Tommy.
- Coach Bev Plocki had a full cheering section in the form of her gymnastics team while she performed the Salsa, winning the award for “most flirtatious.” As part of the Michigan athletics family, Bev and her husband, Jim, have been strong supporters of ChadTough from day one.
- Former NFL pro and Michigan defensive lineman Mike Martin has been a wonderful supporter of ChadTough and turned in a strong performance with plenty of lifts.
“We appreciate every person who committed to dancing for ChadTough,” said Tammi Carr. “Each person holds a special place in our hearts for the love they show to our family and to this cause. We couldn’t do what we do as a foundation without them.”