They say pediatric brain cancer is rare, but when you’re a part of this club that no one wants to be in, you find there are some coincidences that are simply astonishing.

Just six months before Chad Carr was diagnosed with DIPG, another family’s world came crashing down. In March 2014, Emma Thompson, then just 13 months old, was diagnosed with anaplastic ependymoma — another “rare” form of brain cancer.

Learning their baby had cancer was something the Thompsons will never forget. “We were in complete disbelief that something like this could happen,” said Emma’s mom, Kelli. “I just remember running down the hall trying to find Emma, who was on her way back from the MRI. Once I had her in my arms again, I began to really comprehend what was happening.”

Emma had emergency brain surgery at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, where her tumor was successfully removed. Following the surgery, she underwent six months of chemotherapy.

Just as Emma finished her treatments, the news broke that Chad Carr had been diagnosed with brain cancer. Emma’s parents, Kelli and Shawn, immediately realized an eerie commonality. Both children’s fathers played football under Lloyd Carr for the Michigan Wolverines. In fact, Coach Carr had visited Emma in the hospital several times while she was an inpatient receiving her chemo treatments, months before Chad was even diagnosed.

The Thompson family attended the very first RunTough event, where Kelli and Tammi Carr, Chad’s mom, finally met in person and developed a friendship over the years that followed.

“We have been amazed by the strides that have been made in pediatric brain cancer research over the last few years thanks to the incredible efforts of Tammi and Jason. DIPG is the deadliest form of brain cancer, so any advancements in treatment of this specific tumor will help all other forms of pediatric brain cancer,” said Kelli.

In 2018, the Thompsons again received devastating news — Emma’s cancer had returned. She had successful brain surgery, again at Mott, followed by 33 rounds of radiation therapy. She is currently happy, healthy, and full of energy and personality.

“It’s foundations like ChadTough and families that have experienced it firsthand that are actually raising the money and putting their own money toward research,” said Kelli. “It gives us so much hope that one day Emma will be completely cured.”