Team Draft was founded by Chris, now an international healthcare advocate, and his late wife Keasha, who died of lung cancer in 2011 when she was 38.
Now an initiative of the Chris Draft Family Foundation, Team Draft aims to increase research funding and raise awareness for lung cancer by battling the stigma that it is a “smoker’s disease.” From 20,000 to 30,000 people in the U.S. who have never smoked are expected to be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2016.
The funds are raised through Team Draft’s Campaign to Change the Face of Lung Cancer. Its centerpiece is the Lung Cancer Survivors Super Bowl Challenge, a unique fundraiser that gives lung cancer survivors the opportunity to contribute to raise awareness and funds for research.
The challenge raises money for lung cancer organizations and treatment centers nationwide, according to the choice of participants. Last year, those who collected over $1,000 during the challenge were able to commit 50 percent of the funds to an organization or center of their choice.
“The Super Bowl Challenge achieves amazing things in terms of public awareness and changing perceptions about lung cancer,” said Ross Camidge, director of thoracic oncology at Colorado University Cancer Center, in a press release. Two of last year’s Super Bowl Challenge winners were treated at the Colorado University Cancer Center.
The participant who raises the most money will be able to attend the Super Bowl Feb. 5 in Houston, Texas, with Team Draft. The runner-up gets a free trip to the 2017 Pro Bowl in Orlando, and the third-place winner will join Team Draft at the 26th Annual Taste of the NFL.
“Team Draft has really helped boost our family’s spirits during this challenging time,” said Lucy Kalanithi, who won Team Draft’s inaugural Super Bowl Challenge with her husband Paul in 2015. Paul Kalanithi went on to write the bestselling memoir “When Breath Becomes Air,” a chronicle of his life and lung cancer journey, before dying at the age of 37.
You can donate to the Super Bowl Challenge fundraiser or start a new team here.
“The Super Bowl Challenge gives us a unique opportunity to use the overwhelming media coverage surrounding the Super Bowl as a platform to raise critical public awareness about lung cancer on an international level,” Draft said. “With the game as a backdrop, we can use each survivor’s story to weave a broader narrative about the state of lung cancer and the hope that now exists for those battling the disease.”
Chris Draft played for the San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, St. Louis Rams, and Buffalo Bills. He played college football at Stanford.
Below is a 2016 promotional Team Draft video: