On Friday evening (April 20), the Indianapolis community paid tribute to Chuck and Tina Pagano by raising more than $700,000 to create a cancer research fund in their names at Indiana University School of Medicine.
The Chuck and Tina Pagano Cancer Research Fund will ensure that researchers will have funding to support their work early in their careers. In the same way that Pagano, former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, mentored young football players as they launched their careers, this fund will support promising junior researchers at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center.
“Chuck selflessly shared his personal journey with the public while he fought a rare form of leukemia,” Patrick Loehrer, MD, director of the IU Simon Cancer Center, said. “His impact, whether privately visiting other cancer patients or publicly helping to raise money, has been immeasurable. Through his leadership, more than $5 million has been raised for cancer research. He has said to cancer patients, ‘Nobody fights alone.’ He has put those words into action. This fund will serve as a legacy reminding researchers and patients alike that the Paganos know how to fight. All of us at the IU Simon Cancer Center and all of our patients are indebted to Chuck and Tina.”
The fund to honor the many contributions of the Paganos was created by those who previously contributed to the Chuckstrong initiative. The fund’s establishment was announced during the Friday event, A Celebration of Commitment, at the home of Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, who kicked off the campaign with a gift of $250,000.
In addition, Gary and Carol Edwards, owners of DEEM Mechanical and Electrical Company, matched dollar for dollar the first $250,000 that was raised. The Paganos also made a generous gift of $50,000. More than 160 guests were on hand for the event.
“I’m very humbled, very honored that our legacy will hopefully live a lot longer than Tina and I, and we will be able to help future researchers, doctors and scientists keep working and achieve our ultimate goal— to find a cure for all cancers,” Pagano said.
Pagano not only chose to put on a public face following his own diagnosis of acute promyelocytic leukemia in 2012, but he and Tina also generously contributed funds for cancer research during the annual Chuckstrong tailgate galas.
First held in 2013, the tailgate galas— with a celebratory atmosphere with Colts cheerleaders and players at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center— brought together hundreds of guests and sponsors who 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.
Funds from the tailgate galas have been used to purchase laboratory equipment, recruit new researchers, and support innovative cancer research projects at the IU Simon Cancer Center that translate laboratory discoveries into improved treatment options for patients. Such funding is needed because research leads to advancements to find better ways to prevent, detect, and treat cancer.
The Chuckstrong initiative has raised more than $5.5 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 Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia.
2013: The inaugural Chuckstrong Tailgate Gala raised $650,322.
2014: 2nd tailgate gala raised $661,427.
2015: 3rd tailgate gala raised $720,000.
2016: 4th tailgate gala raised nearly $1.2 million.
2017: 5th tailgate gala raised $1.1 million.
2018: A Celebration of Commitment raised more than $700,000, creating the Chuck and Tina Pagano Cancer Research Fund.