INDIANAPOLIS — Sporting tailgate attire, more than 500 people gathered Friday night at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center for the second annual Chuckstrong Tailgate Gala, raising $632,000 for cancer research at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center.
Hosted by the Indianapolis Colts and head coach Chuck Pagano, the Chuckstrong Tailgate Gala raised funds through corporate sponsorships and live and silent auctions. The total also included $25,000 that was generated when quarterback Andrew Luck graciously tossed “touchdown” passes to 25 different donors and $75,000 that was given by the coach and his wife, Tina, as a matching gift.
“We’re here for one reason and one reason only. And that’s to raise money for cancer research,” Coach Pagano said. “Our goal and our vision every day as a team is to chase the Lombardi Trophy. The goal and vision of the Chuckstrong event is to do the same thing. We’ve got a vision and a goal to someday find a cure for all cancers.”
Top-level “touchdown” sponsors for the event included The Efroymson Family Fund, Sergio Aguilera and Lori Efroymson-Aguilera, AML Inc. General Contractors, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, DairyChem, Lilly Oncology, Papa John’s Pizza, and Sol and Kay Raso.
“We are incredibly grateful to the many companies and individuals who have generously sponsored this event,” said Pete Ward, chief operating officer of the Indianapolis Colts and chairman of the IU Simon Cancer Center’s development board. “The Colts have been supporting cancer research at IU for many years, and we are thrilled that the Chuckstrong initiative continues to support this important work.”
Amid a celebratory atmosphere with Colts cheerleaders and more than 50 players, guests at the tailgate gala participated in activities such as a 40-yard dash, punt returns, tackling stations and three-cone drills on the Colts practice field before they turned their attention to raising money for cancer research.
Funds from the tailgate gala will be used to support cancer research projects that accelerate the translation of laboratory discoveries to the bedside of patients in Indiana and beyond. Research is at the heart of progress against cancer, supporting advancements to find better ways to prevent, detect and treat the disease.
“Only through research can we truly change the face of cancer,” said Patrick Loehrer Sr., M.D., director of the IU Simon Cancer Center, H.H. Gregg Professor of Oncology and associate dean for cancer research at the IU School of Medicine. “We must also be more clever and do our homework to look at the circuitry of each person’s particular type of cancer and find novel ways to short circuit its growth. This will lead to better treatments and open the doors for the possibility of more cures.”
Last year, the Chuckstrong initiative raised $1.1 million, which included $646,000 in inaugural gala proceeds and $454,600 generated from sales of Chuckstrong T-shirts and wristbands and other donations. In all, 18,603 T-shirts and 22,038 wristbands were purchased by fans who quickly supported the fundraising campaign initiated by the Indianapolis Colts after Pagano was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia.
Research conducted at the IU Simon Cancer Center is widely known. Among the accomplishments:
Researchers and physicians have transformed the cure rate of testicular cancer from 10 percent to nearly 95 percent today.
Researchers have gained international recognition for the treatment of breast, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, hematologic and thoracic cancers.
Researchers and physicians are recognized nationally for the bone marrow and stem cell transplantation program.
The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Tissue Bank at the IU Simon Cancer Center is the world’s only healthy breast tissue bank. By studying normal tissue, scientists accelerate research for the causes and prevention of breast cancer.
Nearly 50 basic scientists and clinicians work to improve outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients in the Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research.
The IU Simon Cancer Center is one of only 68 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers in the nation. NCI-designated cancer centers are recognized for meeting rigorous criteria for world-class, state-of-the-art programs in multidisciplinary cancer research. NCI-designated cancer centers put significant resources into developing research programs, faculty and facilities that will lead to better approaches to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.