October was officially National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink ribbon themed events were in plentiful supply. I participate with many groups and organizations like most do during the month. But in the cancer community, cancer does not come once a year. It is a twenty-four hour, 365 day a year fight to strike down the dreaded disease. I chose to partner with individuals who understand that in order to beat cancer we must make cancer awareness and survivorship a part of mainstream conversation and not the color of a ribbon one month out of the year.
This past summer, I met Chuck Beard who is a huge advocate for the cancer community. I don’t think I have ever seen him with a pink ribbon. But he can usually be found wearing a red track suit with the name of someone who is fighting cancer on the suit. Chuck is an athlete who competes in races to raise money for cancer patients and their families. He also organizes concerts and art related events to raise money as well.
I was so intrigued with his brand of advocacy that I had to meet with him to learn more about his ambitious drive behind his passion to help others.
When we met, I found myself staring up at Chuck, “he shops in the big and tall shop” I silently thought to myself. Out of curiosity, I touched his arm and realized right away why he was perfect for competing in the 2010 Louisville Ironman event; his arm was flesh over steel. Chuck’s physical appearance embodied the Ironman persona but once he starting sharing with me about why he is involved in the cancer community, I heard right away the heart of a gentle giant and someone who has as much compassion for others as he has strength. Chuck, like millions, lost a loved one to cancer. Chuck’s best friend from childhood fought a long hard battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. To honor that friendship that shaped him at a young age, Chuck started an organization to address the needs in the cancer community. Chuck’s nonprofit has assisted families to help with everyday expenses while caring for a loved one that is hospitalized or undergoing treatment.
This approach to helping others in need is different from many organizations that raise money for cancer causes. Rarely do organizations give monies to individuals who are fighting cancer and usually untold financial stress at the same time directly.
Chuck’s foundation, Adventures Inside of Campus for A Cure, is a 501©3. Chuck and a few friends decided to fight cancer by pulling on a few of their favorite things: education, art, music, and good people. They use their collective resources to bring people together to have a ton of fun while making cancer awareness their top priority. Chuck and company do not see their group as an organization but a movement. “Our goals are to entertain through art and music, educate about the effects of cancer, and enlighten lives with the experiences we leave behind from city to city on our journey”, he said with a big grin. Adventures Inside a Campus For A Cure started in Kentucky in Chuck’s hometown but has found a huge following in Nashville and individuals from around the world.
At the time of our meeting, Chuck was training for an Ironman competition that was held on August 29, in Louisville, Kentucky. He was being trained by Centre College Football Coach Patrick Carter Conley and had been since mid-December of 2009. Chuck shared with me his weekly training which included 6 days a week of swimming, biking, and running. When I asked about his strenuous workouts, he said it was brutal but it would be worth it for a deserving family. Many donated money while Chuck was training and on the day of the event. 100% of the proceeds from the event went to two unknowing and deserving families in Nashville, TN and Louisville, KY that have someone in their families currently battling cancer. Chuck recruited two dear friends who worked in the medical fields from both cities to give him names of families who were in dire circumstances to be recipients of the donations.
If that was not enough, Adventures Inside a Campus for A Cure donations to the family remained anonymous. After hearing him share this bit of information with a big grin, it was hard to fight back tears. He said he wanted the families to know that they were not alone in their courageous fight against cancer, and that many people out there want them to feel inspired by the power of love. Doesn’t every person fighting cancer need an Ironman fighting their battle for them?
Chuck’s advocacy does not stop at triathlon meets or music and art events. He wrote a book titled Adventures Inside A Bright Eyed Sky. ALL money from the book sales goes to families in need. Every cent. Chuck gave me an autographed copy that I rushed home to read right away. I read a story about a boy named Jay who was about to turn thirteen and going through the challenges of life at such a young age. Chuck uses the humor of middle school minds to address grown up problems. The book is appropriate for all ages. As I read it, I found myself imaging Chuck as the young Jay. Since receiving my copy, I have given the book to three families who have young children battling cancer. Their responses have all been the same, “Thank you for the book, I would love to meet the author someday.” With quiet giggles, I said to myself, “You will, you will”, as I took the families names to pass on to Chuck.
Photo credit: Emily Beard
Article first published as An Ironman with a Soft Heart: Chuck Beard Trains for Families with Cancer on Blogcritics.
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Local grassroots nonprofit Adventures Inside a Campus for a Cure will host an evening of art, music and conversation about cancer at The Rutledge Fri., Nov. 12, with doors opening at 8 p.m. The evening will feature works from local visual artist Jeff Bertrand and performances by Starlume, Venus Hum and Trenton, with all proceeds from the door benefiting Gilda’s Club of Nashville.)