Each year the proceeds raised by the organization are designated by our annually elected “Champion” to be used in support of families fighting cancer and research for cures with approval from the Champions for Cures Board. The organization has raised $245,683 in the fight against cancer through our first seven years.
As announced at the Birdies for Cures event on September 15, 2018, Rhonda Kokot is our 2019 Champion. Rhonda’s cancer journey began on December 28, 2001 when, at the age of 29, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive blood cancer. After undergoing several rounds of chemotherapy, Rhonda took part in a clinical trial that tested the efficacy of using umbilical cord stem cells for adult stem cell transplants. Fortunately, her transplant was successful and, 16 years later, Rhonda is cancer-free and living a healthy, normal life.
After her recovery, Rhonda vowed to make cancer research her passion and purpose. In 2008 she started on a challenge to run a half marathon in every state and raise $100,000 for cancer research. (Today she has 2 states remaining and is very close to reaching her fundraising goal.)
Rhonda is also a board member at Gateway for Cancer Research. Gateway’s mission is to help shape a world in which a cancer diagnosis is no longer feared. To do that, Gateway funds clinical cancer research trials for today’s cancer patients – treatments that help patients live longer, feel better or conquer cancer today. Gateway’s singular focus on funding cancer research, coupled with underwriting support from Cancer Treatment Centers of America, enables Gateway to use 99 cents of every dollar they receive for cancer research.
Rhonda is thrilled to receive the honor of being named the 2019 Champion and looks forward to working with the Champions for Cures team to direct fundraising dollars to Gateway for Cancer Research.
As announced at the Birdies for Cures event on September 16, 2017, Randy Kingdon was our 2018 Champion. Randy bravely fought prostate cancer for eleven years before passing away on September 15, 2017. Randy’s wish was for the proceeds for 2018 to be directed towards prostate cancer research. His family has chosen the prostate cancer research program at the University of Chicago that worked along with Randy’s doctors in Peoria, IL to provide treatment. Randy was the father of our co-founder, Eric “Pete” Kingdon.
From Randy’s son, Eric:
To put words on paper to summarize why my father was a champion in his fight against cancer is tough to do, and that’s because words cannot do justice for the courage, strength and determination he showed in the 11 years he fought this terrible disease. Eleven years….all the while still farming almost every day, taking care of his family and living life to its fullest. As I reflect on all he went through without so much as one complaint, it’s impossible not to admire his courage. If I’ve learned anything throughout this, we should all live each day as if it were our last and cherish the ones we love to our fullest.
Part of the reason my father was been able to continue his fight as long as he did was the advances in Prostate Cancer research over the last 10 years. For a disease that at one time only had 1 or 2 treatment options there are now over 10 with many more being developed. This is all the result of experimental cancer research that is often funded through charities like this. As we look to 2018 for our purpose and where the money we will raise will go, my father's request was prostate cancer research be that purpose. Our family has specifically chosen Prostate Cancer Research at the University of Chicago to receive 100% of the proceeds for 2018. Hopefully with your continued support, we will someday live in a world where we don’t have to watch our loved ones fight this terrible disease.
Andrew Beauchamp was selected for our 2017 Champion for Cures. His story, as told by his wife Jennifer, is below:
Over the past 6 years our lives have been turned upside down. Andrew was first diagnosed with colorectal cancer in February 2011. It was such a shock. No family history of any colon or rectal cancer. He was 26 years old when he was first diagnosed. The prognosis, then, looked really good. They wanted him to go through radiation therapy and chemotherapy, and then have a surgery to remove the tumor in his rectum. He underwent the surgery in June 2011. They also told us that after the chemo, radiation, and surgery (due to the location of the cancer), we would probably not be able to have any more children. At the time, we had a 3 year old girl and a 2 year old girl. We were really wanting to try and have a boy someday as well. A month later, March 2011, a week before he started chemo and radiation, I found out I was pregnant with our 3rd child. So, we were thrilled, but 2011 was very difficult. Andrew was going through chemo, radiation and surgery/recovery, and I was pregnant, working, and taking care of a 2 and 3 year old. At the end of 2011, he had finished chemotherapy and radiation and recovered well from surgery. The year ended with the birth of our son on Andrew's birthday, December 7, 2011.
August of 2014, I was pregnant again after the doctors had said he probably wouldn't be able to produce any other children. We had another healthy baby girl born on May 1, 2015. Life was good. In January-February of 2016 Andrew started to have slight discomfort in his right leg from his groin down to his foot. It kept getting worse. Andrew just thought it was a pinched nerve or some orthopedic issue going on. He was given pain meds and after having several scans done, an orthopedic surgeon finally found a large malignant pelvic mass in his right pelvis that was causing all of the pain, discomfort, and complications. We found out this news in March of 2016. After discussing his situation with doctors locally, we searched around and decided to seek treatment at Cancer Treatment Centers of America. It is located in Zion, IL, only about 3 1/2 hours from our home. We loved the care we received from them since day one. Over the last year we have been back and forth for appointments, chemotherapy infusions, intense radiation, hospitalizations and procedures. He was last admitted to the ICU at the Cancer Center in Zion on November 28, 2016 for several complications he was having. The side effects from the chemotherapy he was currently on were causing more and more complications throughout his body that he physically could not withstand them. Unfortunately, despite the aggressive treatment since March, the cancer progressed. The doctors discussed with us that there is so much multiple organ involvement that by trying yet another type of chemotherapy or treatment his body just wouldn't be able to endure the side effects.
He fought cancer like a boss and had a smile on his face every single day. He was by far the strongest and bravest man I have ever known. He went through so much the last year. More than what most people go through in a lifetime. He wouldn't let anything steal his joy. He loved sports and being outdoors. Andrew would go hunting and fishing regularly. He did as much as he could up until the very end. I believe his last day out was in the duck blind on November 25, 2016. This was just 3 days before being admitted to ICU. He was such an inspiration to so many people.
Andrew was discharged from being under the care of his oncologist and admitted to home hospice the first week of December 2016. He wanted to come home and be with all of his loved ones. He was only home on home hospice for 10 days before he past away peacefully surrounded by his family and closest friends on December 17, 2016.
It is a whole new lifestyle for us, and we are still adjusting. We have a great support system. We still believe that God is good and He will guide us through this next season of life. We miss him like crazy, but it helps us knowing that he is walking with Jesus and watching over us free of pain and suffering. Andrew would want us to be happy and live life to the fullest. Thinking about what he would want helps us get through each day without him. We have to remember that our time here on earth is such a short time compared to eternity in heaven.~
An avid supporter of Birdies For Cures from the beginning, Dan Weber has been named our 2016 Champion. Never did he realize how significantly cancer could affect someone until he himself was told those three little words, "You have cancer." After a rigorous battle with a rare cancer called Liposarcoma, we are happy to say that he is currently cancer free and more eager than ever to help find a cure. Here's a quick overview of his fight:
In early August 2014, after experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, Dan drove himself to the ER to figure out what was going on. Test after test was ran, he was admitted to the hospital, and two days later was told that he had cancer. From that moment on he was determined to fight his battle head on and started searching for the best possible treatment center for a Liposarcoma tumor that encompassed the entire right side of his abdomen.
Upon putting his faith in the doctors at Mayo Clinic, Dan underwent several rounds of chemo and radiation to prepare for a potentially life-altering surgery in January 2015. Due to the placement of the tumor, he was prepared to possibly loose the function of his right leg post surgery. After fifteen hours of work in the operating room, six surgeons successfully removed a mass the size of a school backpack from Dan's abdomen, and to everyone's surprise, saved the functionality of his right leg.
A long road to recovery was still ahead for Dan, and after several complications, an emergency second surgery was preformed in March. Through rehab, rest, and the support of great family and friends, Dan was able to make nearly a full recovery. In his return appointment to Mayo Clinic that July, he was given the cancer-free tag, much to his relief. Though sarcoma cancers have a very high rate of return, Dan and his family pray everyday that he continues to remain healthy for many years to come.
Each year, our Board of Directors selects a "Champion" to represent our organization for the upcoming year. That person must personify all of the core values of the Champions For Cures organization, as outlined above. Our "Champion" is also given the opportunity to donate the majority of the yearly net proceeds to an organization of their choice, pending board approval. Finally, that "Champion" will be publicly recognized at our Birdies For Cures event each fall.