ATLANTA, Jan. 14, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Team Draft is sending lung cancer survivor-advocates to the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl and Taste of the NFL. These survivor-advocates are winners of Team Draft's fifth annual Lung Cancer Survivors Super Bowl Challenge—a unique fundraising challenge designed to give lung cancer survivors the opportunity to compete to raise funds for public awareness and cutting-edge research that is giving new hope to those battling this often misunderstood disease. Those who raise more than $5,000 during the Super Bowl Challenge may commit 80% of the funds raised to a lung cancer organization or cancer center of their choice. While the Challenge is over, fundraising continues through Super Bowl Sunday.
Founded by veteran NFL linebacker and former Atlanta Falcon Chris Draft, and his late wife, Keasha, who died of lung cancer in 2011 at age 38, Team Draft is dedicated to raising lung cancer awareness and increasing badly needed research funding through its Campaign To Change The Face Of Lung Cancer—a campaign committed to shattering the misconception that lung cancer is a "smoker's disease." At the center of Team Draft's Campaign is its annual Lung Cancer Survivors Super Bowl Challenge. Team Draft announced this year's Super Bowl Challenge winners on New Year's Eve:
- Patty Watkins – Patty, an Atlanta native, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2014. As the top fundraiser in this year's Challenge, Patty and her husband, Kent will represent Team Draft at Super Bowl 53 and the 28th Annual Taste of the NFL in her hometown. 80% of the funds Patty raises during the Challenge will be donated to the National Lung Cancer Roundtable at the American Cancer Society. "I'm really looking forward to representing the lung cancer community at the Super Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium here in Atlanta," Patty says. She explains, "Lung cancer kills the equivalent of two stadiums full of people every year in the United States. That's 160,000 moms, dads, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. My story brings hope that one day the possibility of making lung cancer a chronic manageable disease will become a reality."
- Gina Hollenbeck – Super Bowl Challenge runner-up Gina Hollenbeck, a Memphis, Tennessee nurse, fitness enthusiast and mother of two young boys was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2015. She and her husband, Greg will represent Team Draft at the 28th annual Taste of the NFL in Atlanta. 80% of the funds she raises during the Challenge will go to ALK Positive Research Fund. "I am super excited about this opportunity to go to the Taste of the NFL, but I am more excited to give lung cancer a voice," explains Gina. "The opportunity to speak to celebrities and athletes about lung cancer is important."
- Jeff Meckstroth – As third place finisher in the Challenge, Jeff Meckstroth, a firefighter, paramedic, and farmer from Piqua, Ohio who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2015, will join Team Draft at the NFL Pro Bowl in Orlando, Florida. Jeff will be joined by his wife, Rhonda, a lung cancer advocate working with the ALK Positive Outreach, Biden Cancer Initiative and the American Cancer Society on an educational campaign for biomarker testing. If Jeff raises over $5,000, 80% of the funds raised will go to support the Kettering Cancer Center in Kettering, Ohio. "In many ways," says Jeff, "this will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to thank our community, fight for all lung cancer families, but most importantly to educate the public about the reality of lung cancer."
As Draft explains, "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. 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."
"We are proud to honor these outstanding survivor-advocates who truly are changing the face of lung cancer," Draft says. "The Super Bowl and Pro Bowl are a fitting time to spotlight the crusade to change the face of lung cancer. The level of commitment, drive and passion required to make it this far parallels the efforts required to get lung cancer research the next level."
"It takes a team to tackle cancer, and thanks to committed survivor-advocates like Patty, Gina and Jeff, and all those who are participating in the Super Bowl Challenge, we are building a championship team," Draft says. "Keasha's legacy of hope lives on through that team and we are grateful to all those who have contributed and continue to contribute to lung cancer awareness, research, treatment and patient advocacy efforts."
Team Draft's 2019 Lung Cancer Survivors Super Bowl Challenge continues through February 4th, Super Bowl Sunday. To donate, please visit www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/2019SuperBowlChallenge.
About Team Draft
Team Draft, an initiative of the Chris Draft Family Foundation, is dedicated to raising lung cancer awareness and increasing badly needed research funding by shattering the misconception that lung cancer is a "smoker's disease." The fact is, anybody can get lung cancer. Yet, despite the fact that between 20,000 and 30,000 people who have never smoked—including Keasha, Patty, Gina and Jeff—are diagnosed with lung cancer in the United States each year, the smoking stigma negatively impacts lung cancer research funding, which pales in comparison to funding for other major cancers and diseases. Team Draft is out to change all that. "If we can take away the stigma that says you have to be a smoker to get lung cancer, we have a real chance to educate people about the true nature of the disease," explains Draft.
To learn more about Team Draft, share your story, or make a donation, please visit www.teamdraft.org.
SOURCE Chris Draft Family Foundation