Before his son, Tommy, was diagnosed with DIPG in 2016, Tom Ruddy wasn’t much of an athlete. But watching his 5-year-old so bravely endure brain cancer changed everything.
Night after each cruel night of Tommy’s 11-week battle, Tom began to run on the family treadmill. The activity gave him the mental and physical strength to get through the very worst time in his life. After Tommy passed away, Tom took to the streets, continuing to channel his grief through exercise.
“I began to realize the importance of mental and physical health and to never take that for granted,” said Tom. “Running allowed me to find the strength to tackle the challenges and changes, especially after losing a child.”
In October of 2017, Tom attended the Chicago Marathon as a spectator. There, 38 runners participated in honor of Tommy, raising more than $100,000 to benefit The ChadTough Foundation. The emotional weekend left Tom inspired to do something more with his newfound hobby.
For the next two years, Tom continued to run with a singular goal. He wanted to use the sport as a way to honor his son and possibly change the prognosis for future children with DIPG.
In 2019, Tom ran his first marathon in an eight-day stretch that began on Tommy’s angelversary and ended with what would have been his eighth birthday.
“There were times I felt in over my head and unable to finish,” said Tom. “But the thought of what Tommy went through, and what other kids fighting cancer go through, gave me the push I needed. I achieved my goal and it changed my life.”
Running continues to offer a small bit of peace for Tom, allowing him to channel his grief into good. This year, on Father’s Day, Tom will take on his biggest challenge yet by participating in his first half Ironman in Grand Rapids. The competition consists of a 200-meter swim (1.2 miles), a 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run. Tom’s goal is to finish in 6 hours and raise $5,000 for the newly merged ChadTough Defeat DIPG Foundation.
While Tom knows this challenge won’t be easy, the memory of his son’s courage continues to strengthen him, and he hopes his journey to the finish line will inspire others. Contribute to Tom’s journey today.