YPSILANTI, Mich. — Chase Winovich has embraced a cause.
Winovich, a defensive end for the Michigan football team and a fifth-year senior, has become a pied piper of sorts for the ChadTough Foundation. ChadTough aims to increase awareness of Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, an inoperable tumor in the brain stem, and raises money for research and for outreach to families of children who have been diagnosed with the disease.
He dyed his shoulder-length blond hair orange in December, part of a campaign that raised more than $211,000 for the ChadTough Foundation. Then on Thursday, he took his efforts a step further — make that many steps — as he danced to Beauty and the Beast by John Legend and Ariana Grande at Dancing With the Michigan Stars, a benefit for the foundation.
Winovich has no particular connection to childhood brain tumors or to medical research. Yet working with the ChadTough Foundation — named after Chad Carr, the grandson of former Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr — was a natural progression. Lloyd Carr coached at Michigan from 1995 to 2007 and remains a fixture in the program. Chad Carr’s father, Jason, played at Michigan from 1992 to 1995, and his mother, Tammi, is the daughter of former Michigan All-American Tom Curtis.
Chad Carr died in November 2015 after a 14-month fight against DIPG. He was 5.
Winovich considered giving his time to several charitable causes before the 2017 season, but it was an easy decision to partner with the ChadTough Foundation. Even with so much going on in his life — playing Division I football, balancing a full course load at Michigan, considering the NFL draft — he knew he had to give back to his community.
“I’m motivated by a lot of different sources and a lot of things in my life,” Winovich said. “But I watched a YouTube video, I don’t remember what it’s called, but a guy talked about how he was homeless and built himself up to be a billionaire. He talked about the work he does now and the money he gives. People ask him why he does it. He says that it’s his ‘tax to humanity.’ For being a human and living on this Earth. That’s how I feel, too. This is the least I could do to help give back to a community that’s done so much for me.”
Winovich’s philanthropic efforts are the most visible on the Michigan football program. His teammates, however, also give back. Running back Chris Evans coaches youth football on the weekends, while running back Karan Higdon organizes football camps in his hometown of Sarasota, Fla.
Ron Bellamy, a former Michigan wide receiver, was part of one the 14 couples who danced in the Dancing With the Stars event Thursday. Someone instilled something in Evans, Higdon and Winovich, and others like them, that fostered their desire to give back to their community.
“I’m so proud of Chase, because he has a platform,” said Bellamy, who teaches and coaches football at West Bloomfield (Mich.) High School. “You have a platform that you need to take advantage of, and things that you believe in and you know you’re doing it for the right cause. Use that. The older you get and the further removed you are from the game or from whatever it may be, your voice may not be as strong. Right now, his voice is so strong. He represents the University of Michigan, and I’m proud of Chase and the whole Michigan football program for supporting something that’s bigger than him.”
Winovich only met Chad Carr once. Little did Winovich realize the impact a child would make on him. Little did Winovich realize what the impact would provide him.
“The thing about Chad, for me, his importance isn’t necessarily physical,” Winovich said. “It’s beyond that. The shock waves that his strength and his message have sent, it’s stronger than just one person. He is a community now. Chad is the face of a community now. I’m just a conduit for a higher power’s master plan, and I’m doing everything I can to help give people hope.”