Chad Carr’s birthday is one week from today. He would have been six years old.
His family – Jason, Tammi, CJ, and Tommy – are navigating along the bumpy road approaching that day. They waver between normal, day-to-day life, and the constant – oftentimes unexpected – triggers of missing Chad.
Time is a funny thing in situations like this. It carries the illusion of healing as it brings about fear. Fear of leaving Chad behind and fear that the rest of the world will, too.
It is so important that we rally around this family to let them know the world has not forgotten. We have not forgotten Chad and we have not forgotten his impact.
More Than A Race
This Saturday is the 3rd Annual RunTough for ChadTough event. It has garnered significant support locally and nationally, already exceeding the foundation’s $50,000 goal for donations.
A “virtual race” was added this year, allowing remote supporters to participate from anywhere. More than 450 people have signed up to run virtually, an amazing testament to the number ChadTough Champions across the country.
All of that being said, we need more.
Saturday’s race isn’t just about raising money for DIPG. It’s about showing a family that we haven’t forgotten their son, their brother, their grandson, their nephew, their cousin. It’s about singing happy birthday to a little boy in heaven.
It’s about embracing the sadness to show support to a family that truly, truly needs it.
Denise grew up in Saline. She has five kids, four boys and one girl. Her three oldest – all boys – were born at nearly identical times as the three Carr boys. When she heard about Chad, her heart immediately went out to the family.
“I have several common friends with the Carrs so when Chad initially got sick, a lot of my friends that I knew from Saline were sharing to pray for him,” she said. “I got drawn into the foundation and started volunteering.”
Denise will run in Berkley because she had already committed to another race that day, but she wanted to be sure she showed her ChadTough support on September 24.
Tracy is a University of Michigan season ticket holder living in Chicago. Her sister is a scientist, so she understands the importance awareness brings to funding research for rare diseases like DIPG.
“Here is a child who died – and other children who are dying – (in part) because money is not donated appropriately to worthy recipients or worthy research,” she said.
Tracy will be running with a women’s group in Chicago on September 24.
Victoria is a registered nurse living in New Jersey. She didn’t learn about Chad until after he passed away, but has since become a huge advocate of the cause. She recently put together a report outlining DIPG and its impact with the hopes that it will be picked up by major news outlets.
“My brother is a senior producer at CNN and I plan on getting this to him and his goal is to get it to a senior producer on the medical team at CNN in Atlanta,” she said.
“I’m hoping that the senior producer will want to do something to raise the awareness of the cancers that get the least attention in terms of funding.”
Victoria will be participating in the virtual run from New Jersey. Her two daughters — one in North Carolina and another in Vermont — will be participating as well.
Gina is a mom of three boys close in age to CJ, Tommy, and Chad. One day she was scrolling through her Facebook feed and saw the photo of Chad giving a thumbs up and thought she was looking at her own son, Marco. From that point forward, she was a ChadTough supporter.
“I will never forget November 23, 2015,” she said. “I was at work and went to lunch. I came back and saw the post that Chad had passed. I stood up from my desk and grabbed my stomach. I was one of many, many people who had never even met Chad and was absolutely crushed by his passing.
“I cried for days … weeks … I still tear up over him. People may think that is odd, but when you are a mom, you feel things for other children and families that you didn’t think were possible. I vowed to help with this cause. Help to find a cure and help these innocent babies and families.”
Her kids aren’t the only connections to the cause. Her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor in October of 2010. He underwent surgery, chemo, and radiation, and is now doing well.
“He is lucky. We are lucky,” said Gina. “Kids deserve to be lucky, too.”
Gina — an avid runner thrilled to have the virtual race option — will be running in a local race in Connecticut on September 25 to honor Chad and RunTough for ChadTough.
Ashley was a college roommate of Tammi Carr’s their freshman year at Michigan. They became fast friends and, like Denise and Gina, Ashley has three boys born relatively close to the Carr boys.
“My youngest has a chronic condition, too, he has a heart transplant,” Ashley said. “So we kind of have that in common as well. When he was diagnosed, Tammi was supportive of me asking if I needed any help with Mott doctors and things like that.”
Ashley’s son is on immunosuppressants as part of his ongoing care, putting him at a higher risk for cancer.
“So I’m totally cheering Tammi on with her DIPG research and pediatric cancer funding, too, because someday it could affect us as well,” she said.
Ashley will be running the virtual 5K from Atlanta where she currently lives with her family.
An Alabama fan through-and-through, Brian became a follower of ChadTough after seeing ESPN’s tribute to the Carr family last football season. Despite living in Huntsville, he has become one of the foundation’s biggest champions, raising the most of any fundraiser aside from CJ and Tommy Carr.
In August, Brian took a speaking engagement opening for Eli Gould, the voice of the Crimson Tide, NASCAR, and the NFL, to talk ChadTough and RunTough to a group of 250 people.
All of this support came out of the connection he felt with a family that – until recently – had been total strangers.
“The special and neat thing about (Jason and Tammi) is they can create a personal connection that makes you donate, but then it makes you do more than just donate,” he said.
Brian is not only planning to run on Alabama’s campus on September 24, he is hoping to turn the event into a much bigger fundraiser in the years to come.
You Can Still Help
There is still time to be a part of Saturday’s important event, wherever you are. Participating as a virtual runner means you will receive a RunTough for ChadTough shirt and nearly 100-percent of your registration fee will go toward the foundation.
Even more important, however, will be the power of your support for this family that needs it now more than ever.
Take a moment to re-watch last year’s ESPN feature that pushed so many to action for DIPG. Let it light a fire under you once again to pledge your support to Chad Carr.