ANN ARBOR, Mich. — When Katie Nadig didn’t think she could go another mile in the Chicago Marathon in October 2017, she thought of Chad Carr.
“A marathon is tough work,” Nadig said. “But every time you wanted to stop, there were a bunch of people who I ran it with and they told me, ‘You might give up, but there’s a bigger purpose to this.’
“And I thought, ‘If Chad Carr could take another radiation treatment, then I can run another mile.’ ”
Nadig’s efforts to raise money for the ChadTough Foundation continued after the Chicago Marathon. She is one of 400 volunteers with ChadTough, and one of 150 volunteers who are organizing the Champions for Change gala on Saturday at Al Glick Field House, the indoor practice facility of the Michigan football team.
The gala will feature a celebrity roast of Lloyd Carr, the Michigan coach from 1995-2007, and the grandfather of Chad Carr, the charity’s namesake.
The ChadTough Foundation raises money for Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) research and for outreach to families of children who have been diagnosed with DIPG, an inoperable tumor in the brain stem. Chad Carr died Nov. 23, 2015, after a 15-month fight with DIPG. He was 5.
Some of ChadTough’s volunteers have lost children. Others are neighbors, friends and colleagues of Jason and Tammi Carr, the parents of Chad Carr. Some are Michigan football fans and University of Michigan graduates. Others want to find a cure for DIPG.
Children who are diagnosed with DIPG are given, at best, a year to live after an initial diagnosis.
“We didn’t really know what DIPG was and we thought it was something that would just require surgery,” said Ana Dora-Barnes, a volunteer whose oldest son, Marcelo, first told her about Chad Carr in 2015. “But the more we heard, then we realized it was really bad and that there was no treatment. No cure. We wanted to join the community and help. My daughter is a year older than Chad would be now. It spoke to my heart. I wanted to help, and not see kids suffering.”
Bringing a gala together
Some of the volunteers for the Champions for Change gala are designing decorations that will adorn Glick Field House. Others oversee an online silent auction or will work as hosts at one of the tables where guests will sit with Michigan football luminaries such as fourth-year coach Jim Harbaugh and 1997 Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson.
Dora-Barnes and her husband Matt became involved with the foundation three years ago, when Matt ran the New York City Marathon and raised funds for DIPG research. He joined Nadig as one of 43 people to run the Chicago Marathon for ChadTough. Ana also helped organize community garage sales with total proceeds going to ChadTough.
This weekend, they will serve as table hosts at the gala.
“It’s like being a host or a hostess,” Matt Barnes said. “A lot of Lloyd’s players are coming in to roast him, and we’ve seen how people can be so generous to this cause. It’s amazing what’s been donated, the time that’s been put in, and it’s amazing to see how much the community has stepped up.”
Amy Longcore of Saline, Mich., first organized a community garage sale that benefited the foundation in 2015. She is designing decor for Saturday’s event.
She and her family have spent the last week painting white tree branches and designing stage decorations, and putting the finishing touches on 20-foot banners that will hang inside Glick Field House. Each banner depicts children whose families have been affected by DIPG.
“Those banners, you look at them and you say, ‘This banner is about Chad. This one is about Tommy,’ ” Longcore said, mentioning the name of another child. “It makes it real. We had six banners last year, and had to add four new children this year. We have to make it all about the kids.”
A personal cause
Working with ChadTough is personal for Nadig and Longcore.
Nadig’s daughter Ella died in 2007 because of a heart defect. The people who helped Nadig and her family buoyed her, and she feels obligated to do the same for another family.
“This is about Chad, and I totally get the purpose,” said Nadig, a Michigan graduate who is on a four-person team that has organized a silent auction for the gala. “There’s nothing worse than feeling like your kiddo is forgotten. Tammi is doing an amazing thing to help others but she’s leaving behind an amazing legacy for Chad.”
The fact that DIPG has a zero percent chance of survival haunted Longcore — and it resonated with her.
“In my job, I do clinical research,” said Longcore, a Michigan graduate. “I look at clinical trial data and what I can’t believe is that in this day and age, you’re given a death sentence for a diagnosis for DIPG. The fact he had a zero percent chance of survival made me cry. I’m a mom. There isn’t any hope. If this was my kid, I’d be like Tammi, and I would say, ‘We’re going to fight this.’
“It might not be for Chad, but we have to think globally. It’s for the next kid, or the next kid, or the next kid.”