A former NFL player is spreading awareness about lung cancer in the name of a loved one.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths, and one in 16 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime.
Keasha Draft would cheer for her husband and best friend, former NFL player Chris Draft, from the stands every week.
Things shifted when Chris became the one cheering for Keasha as she battled lung cancer. “Absolutely surprising. Out of nowhere my wife just said she had a shortness of breath. That’s all it was and then all of a sudden lung cancer,” Chris said.
Keasha passed away in December of 2011. But just a month prior, on their wedding day, Keasha and Chris started “Team Draft.”
“I lead Team Draft Foundation, which is committed to changing the face of lung cancer, and doing that is about building relationships with our survivors and finding these amazing people and supporting them,” Chris said.
Almost 10 years later and he’s still keeping her name alive, and not just in his heart. “Really what’s happening here is going to inspire people all around the country actually all over the world,” he said.
Chris decided to partner with the White Ribbon Project, which was created by Heidi and Pierre Onda in Colorado. They started off with just over 400 tiny white ribbons and sent them around the country to those fighting lung cancer.
“It’s about love, so if you see a ribbon that comes from them, it’s made with love, it’s a gift,” Chris said.
Bonnie Ulrich is fighting lung cancer. “She helped us. We have to turn this around; she helped us. She inspired this out of frustration and we just all picked up her desire … to just bring lung cancer awareness,” Ulrich said.
Almost 150 ribbons were hand made by the team on Saturday. Chris plans to drive across Florida to drop off these ribbons to lung cancer survivors and current cancer patients, like Bonnie Ulrich and Stephanie Peace.
“There’s a huge lung cancer community out there and we’re part of that community and that community, I could probably say, is saving my life just mentally,” Ulrich said.
Peace is currently receiving treatment for lung cancer. “Keep fighting, keep advocating for yourself.”
“This is what it takes when we ask how we’re going to change lung cancer? We’re going to change it as a team,” Chris said.
Every year, Draft attends the Super Bowl, but he won’t have the chance to do so this year. He does hope to stop in Tampa next week and drop off a ribbon for someone to take to the Super Bowl.
After seeing this story on WINK News, a woman in Puna Gorda reached out to Draft. Cathy Grizzle has now received a handmade ribbon of her very own.