Defensive end talks about his mission and fundraiser idea that helped raise over $211,000 for DIPG research. Angelique S. Chengelis, Detroit News
Ann Arbor — For Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich, raising money for the ChadTough Foundation was never really about the money. It was about increasing awareness for Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a rare pediatric cancer.
Winovich, on Dec. 21, 2017, challenged Michigan fans to raise $15,000 for the ChadTough Foundation. He said if that was reached, he would dye his hair orange in honor of Chad Carr, who died at age five from DIPG. Orange was Chad’s favorite color.
The Michigan community has supported a number of fundraisers in Chad’s honor to benefit the foundation that was created by his parents, Tammi and Jason Carr, both Michigan alums. Chad was the grandson of former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr and All-American Tom Curtis.
This fundraiser continued to grow as Winovich’s teammates — Maurice Hurst was next, then Grant Newsome — raised the goals based on their jersey numbers. Other teammates, like Devin Bush and Josh Metellus also took part, as did Larry Prout, a close friend of the program. Winovich and Hurst managed to get defensive coordinator Don Brown involved and said he would dye his trademark grey mustache orange if $125,000 was raised.
Winovich, Newsome, Prout and Brown were on hand Thursday at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital to present a check for $211,246, to pediatric oncologist Carl Koschmann and pathologist Sriram Venneti. The funds will be directed to Michigan medicine’s Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Initiative (PBTRI). Michigan Regent Ron Weiser has pledged to match all donations to PBTRI up to $1 million through Jan. 31, 2018.
“If I thought it would get this big, I would have set it a little higher,” Winovich said. “I was just happy to do whatever I could. I knew it wasn’t about the money necessarily. The money is great, it sets up things like this, but I knew there was another level to it.
“It’s not about $420,000. It’s more. Bill Gates could come in and give us $500,000 but at the end of the day the awareness (this brings), and even greater in my opinion, is the hope these families who have suffered and felt this longing of something to cling to (now have).”
Newsome, who wears No. 77, decided to join in the fundraiser by setting the goal for $38,500, essentially representing half his number, after Hurst had joined in by setting his goal at $73,000 to match his jersey number.
“I went to bed, woke up to a text from my mom and she was saying, ‘I guess you’re going orange,’ and I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’” Newsome said. “I looked at it, and it was at $50,000 at that point. It speaks volumes about the Michigan community. If our efforts can lead to one family or one kid not having to suffer through that, it’s worth it tenfold.”
Newsome talks about the Michigan community rallying together to raise over $211,000 for DIPG research and honoring the memory of Chad Carr. Angelique S. Chengelis, Detroit News
Winovich showed up for the Outback Bowl with his long hair dyed what he described as a “bold” orange. The players agreed that Hurst’s orange mohawk was probably the best representative, but Brown’s orange mustache was a highlight.
Before the game, Brown joked that he didn’t know how he was drawn into the fundraiser by Winovich and Hurst. It was clear on Thursday he was grateful to be part of it.
“You don’t realize how widespread the Michigan family is,” Brown said. “That was the first time it really hit home with me what we’re trying to do here. This is a mission.”
The Carrs donated their son’s brain for research into DIPG. Koschmann handled the research and made a discovery through his analysis of Chad’s tumor cells. A genetic mutation called PTEN was found in every part of Chad’s tumor and that is what stimulated the tumor’s growth.
PTEN is a factor in other cancers, like breast cancer, but this was a new finding in DIPG.
Defensive coordinator talks about Chase Winovich's fundraiser that helped raised over $211,000. Angelique S. Chengelis, Detroit News
“It hadn’t really been described as one of the regular genes to be involved in DIPG,” Koschmann said Thursday “We could make a case it was important because we found it in every spot of the tumor. It wasn’t just a fluke.
“We’ve since found it in another DIPG tumor we sequenced here, so it makes a compelling case moving forward when we see patients that are newly diagnosed with DIPG, we tighten the panel to say, maybe we don’t need to look at all 10,000 genes, but maybe there’s an important 20. Because of Chad’s tumor, PTEN is on that list.”
Koschmann said that with the money that has been raised by the ChadTough Foundation, including the large check presented by Winovich, he has been able to increase the number of individuals researching the tumor in the hopes that someday it will no longer be death sentence for young children.