Atlanta, GA. The winners of the inaugural Super Bowl Challenge will enjoy trips to the Super Bowl, the NFL Pro-Bowl and the Taste of the NFL this month as part of Team Draft’s National Campaign to Change the Face of Lung Cancer . The winners are all lung cancer survivors with powerful stories to share about their often misunderstood disease. Team Draft was founded by NFL veteran Linebacker Chris Draft and his late wife Keasha, an engineer and Clemson graduate who died of lung cancer at the age of 38.
“ We are proud to honor these outstanding advocates who are truly changing the face of lung cancer by supporting promising research and treatments that are giving lung cancer survivors more days weeks , months and even years to treasure with their loved ones,” Chris Draft. Lung cancer survivors across the United States joined the Super Bowl Challenge by raising funds in support of Team Draft’s National Campaign to Change the Face of Lung Cancer—which is dedicated to raising public awareness about the true nature of the disease and shattering misconceptions about lung cancer which is often mischaracterized as a “smoker’s disease”. Challenge participants were part of a friendly competition, with the top fundraisers awarded trips to the Super Bowl, the NFL Pro-Bowl and the Taste of the NFL.
The winner of the Super Bowl Challenge, Paul Kalanithi and his wife Lucy will attend the Taste of the NFL on January 31, 2015 and Super Bowl XLIX (49) on February 1, 2015 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
“We were thrilled to raise funds for Team Draft! My husband Paul was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer as a 36-year-old, and Team Draft has really helped boost our family’s spirits during this challenging time,” said Lucy Kalanithi. “Team Draft raises awareness of lung cancer and empowers survivors in such a positive way. We’ve also had tremendous support from our friends and family, who really stepped up to contribute to the Super Bowl Challenge. Paul is a huge football fan, and we can’t wait to join Team Draft at Super Bowl XLIX! I’m also excited to meet Samantha Mixon at Taste of the NFL.”
Paul Kalanithi was a Resident in Neurosurgery at Stanford University when he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in June 2013. A graduate of Stanford University, he had also attended Cambridge and graduated from medical school at Yale before returning to Stanford to complete his residency and neurosurgical training. Dr. Kalanithi chronicled his lung cancer journey in an op-ed piece in the New York Times in January, 2014. In addition to continuing his medical practice, Dr. Kalanithi has become a tireless advocate for lung cancer awareness and research.
Lung Cancer Survivor and Super Bowl Challenge Runner-up Dan Powell of Greenville, South Carolina is headed to the NFL Pro Bowl January 25, 2015. “Going to the Pro Bowl is a dream come true. This time last year I was fighting for my life with the stage IV lung cancer diagnosis. We have incredible support from my friends, family, my church, support groups, and cutting-edge treatment from St. Francis Cancer Center. I’ve learned through my cancer experience and support from Team Draft ‘anything is possible and to never give up.’ We are bringing in the new year with a trip to the Pro bowl- I am stoked! “, said Powell.
Dan Powell is a fit and health-conscious non-smoker who has dedicated much of his professional career to preventing air pollution; he has served as Director of Air Quality for Greenville County, South Carolina. He was stunned when he got a diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer at the age of 35. A husband and father, Dan has reached out to other lung cancer survivors and spearheaded the creation of the first lung cancer support group in his part of the state in cooperation with his cancer center- St. Francis Bon Secours in Greenville. Dan is a native of Asheville, North Carolina. During the 2014 football season, he was a guest of Team Draft at a Panthers vs. Falcons game in Charlotte.
Dan’s guest at the Pro Bowl will be his friend Rick Owens who lives outside Greenville, South Carolina in Simpsonville. Dan describes Rick as one of his strongest supporters and Dan has had the unforeseen opportunity to return the kindness since Rick was diagnosed with lung cancer in October of last year. Rick is also a non-smoker, and like tens of thousands of lung cancer patients, was shocked to learn of his diagnosis. Rick shares another close bond with Team Draft- he works for Clemson University , the Alma Mater of the late Team Draft co-founder Keasha Draft.
Super Bowl Challenge second Runner-Up and lung cancer survivor Samantha Mixon of St. Simons Island, Georgia is heading to the Taste of the NFL, a gala event taking place in the Super Bowl city the night before the big game. “We are super excited to be able to go to the Taste of NFL thanks to Team Draft and all of our amazing friends, family, and even strangers that supported us. God is so good, we are beyond blessed!” said Samantha. Guests at the Taste of the NFL will enjoy dishes prepared by some of the best chefs in the country on the night before the Super Bowl, and they’ll meet legendary players from all 32 NFL teams. The event raises money for food banks around the country. For Samantha Mixon, it also offers an opportunity to share the story of her journey with lung cancer, and plans to share details and photos of the occasion on her blog.
Samantha Mixon was 33 when she was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer two years ago. The mother of a young daughter, she pressed her doctor for a prognosis, and was given one year, perhaps eighteen months to live. Looking back, she says she regrets asking for that time line, and since getting the diagnosis, she has profoundly changed her way of approaching each and every day. “After almost a year I quit asking “why me?” and became grateful that I know. I know I may not have much time left on this earth. Knowing that is a gift in itself. You see, I could get into an accident tomorrow and not survive. But that didn’t happen. I was given a warning, not the ticket.” Samantha grew up in Jonesboro, Georgia and though she now resides on St. Simons Island, she frequently visits her mother in Atlanta and in addition to lung cancer advocacy work she does with her blog she has worked with the Free to Breathe Atlanta Lung Cancer Run.
The survivors and physicians battling lung cancer face unique challenges due in part to the fact that lung cancer carries a stigma almost unheard of with any other deadly disease, hindering the unconditional support and investment of resources afforded to patients with other serious conditions. This stigma is the result of the widely held belief that lung cancer is a “smoker’s disease”—a misconception that researchers and advocates agree contributes to the underfunding of research. Team Draft’s Super Bowl Challenge is designed to address the research funding gap and the stigma by attacking the underlying problem of a lack of public awareness about lung cancer. By giving lung cancer survivors, researchers and treatment teams the opportunity to partner with organizations that reach diverse audiences, Team Draft is often able to connect lung cancer patients and their families with resources they would not have been otherwise aware of. “ There is hope, and there are remarkable new targeted lung cancer treatments being introduced at lung cancer research and treatment centers all over the country. The progress is phenomenal and funding is critical to keep it moving forward,” says Draft.
Keasha and Chris Draft had attended the Super Bowl the year of her diagnosis, fulfilling one of her lifelong dreams. The memory of that Super Bowl trip served as part of the inspiration for The Super Bowl Challenge. “It takes a team to tackle lung cancer, and the Super Bowl Challenge has expanded this amazing team. Keasha’s legacy of hope lives on through the Super Bowl Challenge team and we are grateful to all who have contributed and continue to contribute to lung cancer awareness, research, treatment and patient advocacy efforts, and “said Draft. “We are excited to have the opportunity to take the Super Bowl Challenge winners and their stories to the Super Bowl the Pro-Bowl and the Taste of the NFL.”
About Team Draft
Team Draft, an initiative of the Chris Draft Family Foundation, is dedicated to raising lung cancer awareness and increasing badly needed research funding by shattering the misconception that lung cancer is a “smoker’s disease.” Despite the fact that between 20,000 and 30,000 people who have never smoked are diagnosed with lung cancer in the United States each year, the smoking stigma negatively impacts lung cancer research funding, which pales in comparison to funding for other major cancers and diseases. Team Draft is committed to educating people about the true nature of lung cancer, raising funds for research and improving the lives of those affected by lung cancer. To learn more about Team Draft, share your story, or make a donation, please visit https://www.teamdraft.org.