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Chuckstrong Tailgate Gala sets record with nearly $1.2 million for cancer research at IU Simon Cancer Center

INDIANAPOLIS –The fourth annual Chuckstrong Tailgate Gala set a record Thursday night with nearly $1.2 million netted for cancer research at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center.

Hosted by the Indianapolis Colts and head coach Chuck Pagano at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, the tailgate gala raised the funds through corporate sponsorships, live and silent auctions, and the annual Chuckstrong Giving Challenge. The total includes $250,000 that was given by the Jim Irsay family and $50,000 from the coach and his wife, Tina.

The record-setting amount also included $30,000 that was generated by 25 people who paid $1,200 each for the thrilling chance to catch a touchdown pass from quarterback Andrew Luck.

Peggy Throgmartin was one of those to successfully catch a pass from Luck.

“I finally got up the nerve to try it,” Throgmartin said. “I love the fact that everybody can gather together and play a little football and have fun. It goes to a good cause. It’s well worth every dime.”

The event brought together more than 500 guests, nearly all of the Colts players, the Colts coaching staff, and the Colts cheerleaders. The guests participated in activities such as a 40-yard dash, punt returns, and tackling stations on the Colts practice field before they turned their attention to raising money for cancer research.

Coach Pagano, who was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia nearly four years ago, asked the crowd to contribute to fight the “monster” — cancer.

“There’s a monster out there, and it’s terrorizing everyone,” Pagano told the crowd. “Cancer does not discriminate. It’s touched everybody in this room. What I’m asking tonight is that we all come together. I’m asking that we all form a powerful army tonight. I’m asking you to give tonight so that the doctors, the researchers, and the scientists that are here tonight and the other 200 at the IU Simon Cancer Center can do their jobs.”

Funds from the tailgate gala are used to support cancer research projects that translate laboratory discoveries into improved treatment options for patients. Research leads to advancements to find better ways to prevent, detect, and treat cancer.

“We’re so grateful for Coach Pagano, the Indianapolis Colts, and the community for making the tailgate gala such a success each year,” Patrick Loehrer, M.D., director of the IU Simon Cancer Center, said. “Equally important, we are thrilled that the tailgate gala gives us the opportunity to tout the importance of cancer research and its impact on patient care. Without research, we wouldn’t be able to make strides against cancer.” 

In all, the Chuckstrong initiative has raised $3.7 million for cancer research at IU.

Top-level “touchdown” sponsors for the event were Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, DairyChem, the Efroymson Family Fund, Huntington Bank, Lilly Oncology, Sol and Kay Raso, the Throgmartin family, the IU Simon Cancer Center, the IU School of Medicine, and Indiana Knitwear.

The IU Simon Cancer Center is one of only 69 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.

Chuckstrong history

The Chuckstrong initiative has raised $3.7 million for cancer research at IU.

2012: The Colts first launched the Chuckstrong initiative, which raised $485,000 through the sales of Chuckstrong T-shirts and wrist bands, following the announcement that Coach Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia.

2013: The inaugural tailgate gala raised $650,322.

2014: Tailgate gala raised $661,427.

2015: Tailgate gala raised $720,000.

2016: Tailgate gala raised nearly $1.2 million.