( Los Angeles, CA) – Monday, May 13, 2013, would have been the 40th birthday of Team Draft’s co-founder, Keasha Draft, who lost her courageous battle with lung cancer in 2011. Team Draft is marking the occasion by spending the evening at a live taping of Dancing With The Stars with 12-year-old lung cancer survivor Gabby Wilson and her mother, Dana. Gabby and Dana will be joined at the taping by Keasha’s husband, nationally-recognized health advocate and former NFL linebacker, Chris Draft, Chris’ mother, Rose, and Keasha’s mother, Gail Rutledge. Dancing With The Stars airs at 8:00 p.m. (EST) on ABC.
Team Draft is an initiative of the Chris Draft Family Foundation created by Keasha and Chris during Keasha’s year-long struggle with lung cancer. Their hope was that Keasha’s valiant fight to dance, smile and live would give hope, comfort and inspiration to the patients, caregivers and healthcare providers who are battling the disease every day.
While attending Clemson University, Keasha was a member of the Rally Cat’s dance squad before graduating with a degree in Electrical Engineering. After graduation, Keasha worked as an engineer while dancing for the Charlotte Hornets before working in the pharmaceutical industry. She was an energetic, vibrant young woman who had never smoked when she was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer in December 2010. At the time, her only “symptom” was a slight shortness of breath a few days earlier. Despite the diagnosis and knowing the long odds they faced, Keasha and Chris decided to fight back. On November 27, 2011, standing side-by-side, they launched Team Draft at their wedding. One month later, Keasha lost her fight and died at the age of 38.
“’Strong’ is too shallow and too small a word to describe Keasha. She was, quite simply, ferocious,” says Draft. “I see that same fierce spirit in Gabby, and I can’t think of anybody I would rather have join me at Dancing With The Stars tonight,” he adds. Draft first met Gabby, who has been battling lung cancer since she was 5 years old, last year at a stop on Team Draft’s National Campaign to Change the Face of Lung Cancer.
That Team Draft will celebrate Keasha’s birthday by attending a taping of Dancing With The Stars is significant. Aside from being one of Keasha’s favorite shows, Dancing With The Stars has been a strong ally in the fight to raise lung cancer awareness. Last season, DWTS Pros Jonathan Roberts and Anna Trebunskaya performed a tribute dance in honor of their friend and fellow ballroom dancer, Julia Ivleva, who was in the middle of her own battle with Stage IV Lung Cancer. Jonathan, Anna, and Julia embody the dance, smile and live philosophy, and Team Draft thanks DWTS for helping to shine the light on lung cancer.
Team Draft 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, Gabby and Julia—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.
Since Chris and Keasha launched Team Draft at their wedding in November of 2011, Team Draft has been on a mission to tackle cancer. Team Draft’s national campaign to raise public awareness and share the hope that now exists for those diagnosed with the disease has taken it to 80 of the top cancer research and treatment facilities in North America. “Our hope is not only to positively impact research funding, but to improve the quality of life for those affected by lung cancer,” says Draft. “We aren’t fighting against lung cancer, we’re fighting for people. That’s why we are leading this national campaign to change the face of lung cancer.”
The Facts About Lung Cancer
For decades, the facts regarding lung cancer have been sobering:
Anyone can get lung cancer.
Over 60% of lung cancers are diagnosed in people who never smoked or in former smokers.
Lung cancer surpassed breast cancer as the #1 cancer killer for women in 1987.
Lung cancer kills more people than any other cancer, and takes more lives than breast, cervical, and prostate cancers . . . combined.
The five year survival rate for lung cancer is just 16%—a rate that has changed very little since the 1970’s.
But now there is HOPE! The use of state-of-the-art lung cancer screening techniques is reducing mortality rates by 20% in some patient groups while cutting-edge team-based, multidisciplinary treatment procedures are improving the quality of life for lung cancer patients across the country. And thanks to advances in molecular tumor mutation testing, researchers and treating physicians are developing effective personal lung cancer treatments designed to extent and, ultimately, save lives. The key to making even greater strides is funding, but funding for lung cancer research is impacted by the “smoker’s disease” stigma. That’s why Team Draft is campaigning to change the face of lung cancer.
About The Chris Draft Family Foundation and Team Draft
The Chris Draft Family Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation dedicated to strengthening communities by empowering families to live healthy lifestyles. The Foundation focuses on several initiatives with overarching themes that stress the importance of education, healthy lifestyles, character development, personal responsibility, self-discipline, and physical fitness. To learn more about the Foundation, please visit www.chrisdraftfamilyfoundation.org.
Through its Team Draft initiative, the Foundation is carrying on Keasha’s fight to tackle cancer by promoting awareness, research, and scholarship and to save lives by changing the face of lung cancer. Team Draft is dedicated to raising awareness, accelerating research for a cure, and giving hope, comfort, and inspiration to the patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers who are battling the disease every day. To learn more about Team Draft, share your story, and respond and donate, please visit www.teamdraft.org. You can follow the national campaign to change the face of lung cancer on our blog at www.thedraftreport.net, and don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TeamDraft.