YPSILANTI, Mich. — Tammi Carr vividly remembers when Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich contacted her last year. He ran up to her car in the parking lot of the Wolverines’ football offices and told her he wanted to designate the ChadTough Foundation as the main beneficiary of a charitable project he was planning.
Carr was immediately ready to accept Winovich’s offer, but she told him to run it by the football office and the athletic department. Once Winovich received the all-clear from Michigan’s compliance department, he launched a social media campaign in December that raised more than $211,000 to benefit ChadTough. As a result, he and several teammates dyed their hair orange for the Outback Bowl in January.
Winovich continued his philanthropic endeavors last week when he participated in Dancing With the Michigan Stars. The event raised more than $143,000 for research and awareness of Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, an inoperable tumor in the brain stem.
The ChadTough Foundation raises money for DIPG research and for outreach to families of children who have been diagnosed with DIPG. Winovich’s engagement with the ChadTough Foundation continues to floor Carr, the daughter-in-law of former Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr and the mother of Chad Carr, the namesake of the ChadTough Foundation. Chad Carr died in November of 2015 after a 14-month fight with DIPG. He was 5.
“I worked at Mott Children’s Hospital for many years, and I worked with athletes,” Tammi Carr said. “For him to embrace the idea of finding a cause, submitting yourself to it and embracing it, at that age? It’s amazing. It shows me he was raised by wonderful parents and they taught him what was really important. And he is using his platform to do something amazing.”
Winovich hasn’t simply put a face and a name out on social media to raise awareness and money. He has toured the research facilities and the labs where doctors worked — and asked questions about the research. He has visited hospitals. He has met with families and children affected by DIPG.
“This is all Chase,” Tammi Carr said. “And he wants to know more. And I’m so impressed by him and what he does.”
As Winovich weighed whether or not to go to the NFL, Tammi Carr reached out to him again to join Dancing With the Michigan Stars, a fundraiser for ChadTough in the form of a dance competition that featured members of the Michigan athletic program and Detroit-area personalities.
“I’m in,” Winovich told Carr. He said it without hesitation.
Shawn Thompson, a former Michigan tight end, also danced in the fundraiser with his wife, Kelli. His participation in the event last week was personal. His 5-year-old daughter, Emma, recently underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor.
“What Chase is doing, it’s inspiring,” Shawn Thompson said. “I think back to when I was an 18, 19 or 20-year-old kid, and I never would have been able to take on what he has done. For us to see these kids like Chase doing this, and what he and his teammates did in December, it gives you so much hope.”
Winovich has already told the Carr family that when he leaves Michigan, he will continue to carry the flag for the ChadTough Foundation.
“Chase, he said he was inspired by Chad,” Tammi Carr said. “And Chad was an inspiring little dude. Chase just fell in love with his story. And this was a cause that was easy for him to embrace. He’s already told us, he’s with us for the duration.”