Courtesy if the St. Louis Rams
At his own event, Draft was running around the field, using the microphone to give encouragement to the more than 100 participants at the second annual “Chris Draft Tackling Cancer” event, promoting cancer survivorship.
“We’re tackling cancer,” Draft said. “We’ve got cancer survivors of every type out here, but it takes a team. That’s why their caregivers are here. We’re not fighting for another drug or another diagnostic. We’re fighting for some people and to live life abundantly.”
The more than 100 cancer survivors of all ages and cancer types along with their caregivers represented the likes of Siteman Cancer Center, Mercy Health Cancer Center, Saint Louis University Cancer Center, American Cancer Society, Friends of Kids with Cancer and Lung Cancer Connections, Inc. Each traveled to Rams Park for a memorable evening with Draft, Team Draft staff and Rams rookies who have themselves been touched by cancer.
“She was so strong and just an inspiration to all of us,” said tackle Rob Havenstein, whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when he was a child. “She’s completely healthy now and we’re just very glad to have her with us. When I first heard the opportunity to participate in this event, I jumped on it. It’s something I wanted to do and something I’m very passionate about, being so close to it.”
With “Bring ‘Em Out” by T.I. blasting in the background, Draft welcomed the cancer survivors to the field with an intro normally saved for Sundays. The survivors ran onto the Rams practice field, delivering high fives all the way to the 30-yard line before breaking into smaller groups. Draft immediately put everyone to work, asking for 20 jumping jacks before splitting the group into different football skill stations.
At one of the six stations participants ran around a large circle before tackling a “air dummy” quarterback. At another, participants played wide receiver, attempting to catch a touchdown pass while a McCluer North High School volunteer played defense. Another station featured precision passing as participants assumed the role of quarterback. Every station provided each survivor an upbeat workout alongside St. Louis Rams rookies who helped lead each station.
After an hour of working on football drills, the survivors, family members and caregivers moved from the indoor football field to the team cafeteria to listen to speakers and to discuss cancer survivorship.
“We think about what we think is tough, day-to-day, and when you see these kids out here who have survived cancer or are battling it currently, I think it really puts everything into perspective,” rookie quarterback Sean Mannion said. “Seeing them out here, having a good time, it puts a smile on your face.”
Those who have fought or were currently fighting cancer wore shirts with the words “Perseverance” or “Courage” emblazoned across the chest, displaying the qualities it takes to beat cancer. Shirts worn by their caregivers and families read “Compassion” and “Responsibility” to characterize their role in survivorship.
“It’s awesome to watch my kids not worrying, to see them not sick and having an awesome time,” said Krista Sands, a mother of two children diagnosed with cancer. “My son is a ridiculous Rams fan, so I surprised him. When we pulled into the lot, he was so excited. It’s so therapeutic, not just for them, but for me, to see them doing this kind of thing. My daughter’s doing things she never thought she could.”
Draft created Team Draft to help build awareness, raise funds for cancer research, and to also promote survivorship, when his wife, Keasha, was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in 2010. Keasha, who never smoked a cigarette, lost her battle with cancer a year after her diagnosis, but stills serves as the life force behind Team Draft.
“My wife Keasha was amazing,” Draft said. “Out of nowhere she was diagnosed with cancer. That’s not anything you want in your life. But she fought the cancer, and she fought it amazingly. It was beautiful to be able to stand with her. She’s the inspiration behind Team Draft.”
Team Draft created the Chris Draft Tackling Cancer event to celebrate the survivors and encourage those diagnosed to keep on fighting and keep on living. It’s how Keasha lived her life, and it’s how Chris wants to continue to live his.