(Earth City, MO) – Former St. Louis Rams linebacker and Team Draft co-founder, Chris Draft, is returning to training camp, but this time he won’t be preparing to take on divisional rivals like the San Francisco 49ers or the Seattle Seahawks. This time, he will be tackling cancer—an opponent with which he is all too familiar. In December 2010, Draft’s then girlfriend, Keasha, a vibrant young woman who had never smoked, was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer. Despite the diagnosis and knowing the long odds they faced, Chris and Keasha decided to fight back, and on November, 27, 2011, standing hand-in-hand, they launched Team Draft at their wedding. A month later, Keasha lost her courageous battle and died at the age of 38. From the beginning, Team Draft has been on a mission to tackle cancer. “Our hope is not only to positively impact research funding, but to improve the quality of life for those affected by cancer,” says Draft. “We aren’t fighting against cancer, we’re fighting for people.” This week Team Draft brings that fight to Rams Park for a unique “tackling cancer” football skills camp.
On Wednesday, June 18, more than 150 cancer survivors of all ages and cancer types and their caregivers representing Siteman Cancer Center, Mercy Health Cancer Center, Saint Louis University Cancer Center, and Lung Cancer Connections, Inc., a Missouri-based community outreach group, will join Chris and other Team Draft representatives, Rams players, cheerleaders, and personnel who have themselves been touched by cancer on the Rams’ indoor practice field where they will participate in several football drills. After the clinic, representatives from Team Draft and LiveSTRONG will facilitate survivor and caregiver discussion groups focusing on various topics related to survivorship.
Having played in the NFL for more than 10 years, Draft knows something about going head to head with difficult competition, but he says “nothing can prepare you for the anger, frustration and fear you feel when you or somebody you care about is diagnosed with cancer.” Draft goes on to explain that “through our Tackling Cancer events, we want to give people who are battling the disease every day the opportunity to take out some of those emotions in a unique and positive way. We want them to hit those bags like they’d hit cancer!”
For the last three years, Team Draft has been leading a National Campaign to Change the Face of Lung Cancer—a campaign that has taken the organization to more than 100 of the top cancer treatment and research facilities in the country. And while Team Draft’s primary focus has been lung cancer, as Draft explains, “we recognize that all cancer survivors and caregivers are on a similar journey, fighting a similar battle.” “In short,” he says, “we’re all on the same team.” Draft adds that “our Tackling Cancer events give Team Draft an opportunity to appreciate that shared journey by creating a unique experience for participating survivors and caregivers, sparking discussion and the sharing of information between those battling different types of cancer and raising awareness on a local and national level about the importance of having a solid cancer care team.”
The event, which was organized by Team Draft and is sponsored in part by pharmaceuticals manufacturer Eli Lilly Company, will take place at Rams Park, 1 Rams Way, Earth City, Missouri, on the evening of June 18. Registration begins at 5:45, and is limited to invited cancer survivors and caregivers.
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.” The fact is, anybody can get lung cancer. Yet, despite the fact that between 20,000 and 30,000 people who have never smoked—including Keasha—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 out to change all that. “If we can take away the stigma that says you have to be a smoker to get lung cancer, we have a real chance to educate people about the true nature of the disease,” explains Draft.