Awareness • Early Detection • Treatment • Research • Survivorship

Delta Airlines TechOps empolyee, cancer survivor honored with a visit from former NFL Player

By Kimberly Westwood

Delta’s Cancer Support Engagement Group (CSEN) recently honored Tech Ops employee and cancer survivor Joe Pitts with a get-together that included his wife, closest friends, and former NFL linebacker Chris Draft.

Pitts, who has been part of the Delta family since January of 1989, diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in 2015. Despite his treatment, which has left him too weak to work, Pitts remains passionate about two things in particular: his family and football.

So when a fellow CSEN member met Draft at a cancer research funding event, the CSEN group knew they needed to meet.

Draft a former player for the Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons among several other teams, spent 12 years in the NFL. Like Pitts, lung cancer personally affected Draft. The disease took his wife, Keasha Rutledge Draft, after a one-year battle.

Draft and his have an impact on just about everyone he meets. He is the co-founder of Team Draft, an initiative of The Chris Draft Family Foundation, that is leading a national campaign dedicated to raising awareness and increasing research funding for lung cancer by shattering the misconception that lung cancer is a “smoker’s disease.” He is an internationally recognized speaker, advocate and community leader, who serves as an NFL Ambassador and a national spokesperson on lung cancer.

At the CSEN event, more than 35 employees gathered at the TechOps Center Bay 6, where Pitts, his Shelly and his colleagues enjoyed cupcakes, laughter and hugs.

When Draft arrived, he said a few words to the group, and then talked with offering him words of encouragement;

“Team Draft is not fighting for lung cancer or against lung cancer, we are fighting for people. We are fighting for you, Joe!”

The event was organized by fellow TechOps employee DL Jones, who has been actively involved in raising money for cancer research organizations.

CSEN was created to offer support, resources and community to those affected by cancer. The group welcomes both patients and caregivers. For me information about CSEN and how to join, visit the CSEN page on Deltanet.

Lung cancer survivor-advocate Joe Pitts and his wife Shelly


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 by using the unique platform available to Chris as a former NFL player and nationally recognized community leader and health advocate to lead an International Campaign to Change the Face of Lung Cancer—a campaign that has taken us to more than 130 of the top cancer treatment and research centers in North America.


About Delta’s Cancer Support Engagement Group (CSEN)

CSEN was founded by Rachael Rensink after her cancer treatment. “After I was diagnosed, there was an outpouring of support from my coworkers; they would call to check on me, prepare dinners for my family, take my kids out to play since I could not do that at that time. It sounds mundane, but it’s knowing that people are there and on our side. They were taking care of our mind, our body, our spirit. I can’t put it into words. We have 80,000 people who work here who each have their own experiences, and a lot of them are with cancer. It is just the spirit of who we are and the people who work here that allows that Spirit to come out. We (CSEN) are literally getting this group off the ground and spreading our wings.”

Steve Gilmore, an MSP based flight attendant and also a cancer survivor, is now President of CSEN and has worked diligently to help CSEN gain momentum and lift.  Steve’s experience with cancer had a different feeling. As a flight attendant, he felt isolated and alone.

It is his goal to never allow another Delta employee who is going through cancer or who is helping a loved through cancer to feel that alone and unsupported.