The following is an opinion column from Gazette Editor Bill Daley:
It was an incredibly sad and difficult day two Mondays ago (Nov. 23) when, in the middle of our usual Gazette production day, the news arrived.
Chad Carr had lost his 14-month battle with pediatric brain cancer. It wasn’t a shock. After all, Chad had been placed in hospice care by his parents, Tammi and Jason Carr, weeks earlier. But nevertheless, there’s nothing like that moment that it hits. The moment when you realize that all the prayers for a miracle were not going to be answered. And of all times, three days before Thanksgiving. It seemed almost cruel.
Everybody has that “moment” when it finally overwhelms them. For Gazette publisher and grandfather Tom Curtis, who was an absolute “Rock of Gibraltar” for his entire family through all of this and drew my immense admiration, that moment finally came that Monday when he simply and very quietly disappeared from the office for a few hours to go be alone.
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For me, it came last Saturday morning. That’s when ESPN ran a gut-wrenching and moving seven-minute segment on “College Gameday” chronicling the plight of Chad, his parents, along with the Carr and Curtis families, through this entire 14-month ordeal.
It was 34 years ago last month that I first came to work for Tom Curtis. When I think of the fact that I’m 57 now, that represents nearly 60 percent of my life. So one can imagine that during that time, I literally watched the Curtis kids — Tammi, Brad and Matthew — grow up in front of my eyes. Thus my relationship with the family including Tom and his wife Debbie who recently had to deal with the loss of her mother ... well, let’s face it, at times I’ve felt like an extended member of the family.Therefore when I saw Tammi being interviewed, I finally had my “moment” as it absolutely broke my heart and broke me down.
From the days that I used to go cover girls soccer games at Springs High in the early ’90s, you could not help but admire her toughness. Time after time, an undersized Tammi would get knocked on her duff and just get right back up and keep on flailing away. No backing down.
She carried that toughness and strength into her adult life and when I saw her face, she looked so beaten down. So emotionally spent. Having extracted every ounce of her physical being as a mother to not only care for her son and comfort him but work her tail off through the world of social media to bring national attention to Chad’s plight and an awful condition known as Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), an extremely rare form of pediatric cancer that hits just 300 kids worldwide on an annual basis.
Even though she and Jason were told from the outset that it was incurable and that their son might not make it to his fifth birthday, that didn’t stop them from using whatever means they could, including their ties to Michigan football with Jason’s dad (long-time former head coach Lloyd Carr) and, of course, our own TC (All-American DB in the late ’60s), to help bring national and even worldwide attention to the cause. Thus was born the now much-often-used “Chad Tough.”
How much national attention?
So much that there isn’t enough space in this column to mention each instance. I’ll only tell you that two bitter rival basketball teams, Michigan and Ohio State, coaches, players and staff at primarily their own expense, saw fit a few weeks ago to pool their resources and head to Ann Arbor.
No, not for a game. What they did was, knowing he wasn’t likely to see Christmas Day, brought Christmas to Chad in November. Christmas tree, house decorations, presents — the works. One last Christmas for Chad.
During the football team’s crucial game against Indiana on Nov. 14, “Chad Tough” was inscribed on the back of every player’s helmet. Fittingly, the Wolverines scored on the last play of the game to send it to overtime and then won it in double OT.
Services were held this past Sunday and his funeral was Monday morning. The amount of flowers sent was incalculable. But among the senders? Nick Saban and Tom Brady.
But where our Gazette was concerned, this was every bit of a local story as well.
And that’s where all of us, myself, the Curtis family and all of those at the Gazette have been absolutely blown away over the last year by the incredible support everyone in the River Cities area has shown.
News of Chad’s passing traveled very quickly that day and by the very next day, there it was right in front of our office. Teddy bears, posters, signs of love and hope — you name it. A makeshift memorial to Chad.
This Saturday, thanks to Kathleen Doyle and her hard-working crew, the Eighth Annual Brain Walk, sponsored by the Pilot Club of Miami, will be held at the south end of the Farmer’s Market on the center median of Curtiss Parkway. And all proceeds will be donated to two foundations — little Daniella Collazo, who continues her fight with pediatric cancer as we all pray and hope for a happy ending, and Chad Tough.
Even though Chad is gone now, his name, his legacy and his cause will live on forever with that phrase as Tammi and Jason will continue to fight to raise money and awareness for such a dreaded disease.
On behalf of the entire Gazette staff and Curtis family, we would like to send a big shout-out and thank you to the entire River Cities community for your incredible support through this extremely difficult time.
With Chad now gone, please save your prayers now not only for little Daniella and every other sick child, but for Tammi and Jason as well. As parents who have had to endure every mother and father’s worst nightmare, burying a child, they muster up the will and courage to move on with their lives and honor Chad’s memory.