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An Ironman with a Soft Heart: Chuck Beard Trains for Families with Cancer

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October is officially National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink-ribbon-themed events are in plentiful supply. I participate with many groups and organizations during this month. But for cancer victims, cancer does not come once a year. It is a 24-hour, 365-day fight against the dreaded disease. I chose to partner with individuals who understand that in order to beat cancer we must make cancer awareness and survivorship a part of mainstream conversation and not the color of a ribbon one month out of the year.

This past summer, I met Chuck Beard, a huge advocate for the cancer community. I don’t think I have ever seen him with a pink ribbon. But he can usually be found wearing a red track suit with the name of someone who is fighting cancer on it. Chuck is an athlete who competes in races to raise money for cancer patients and their families. He organizes concerts and art-related events to raise money as well.

I was so intrigued with his brand of advocacy that I had to meet with him to learn more about the ambitious drive behind his passion to help others.

When we met, I found myself staring up at Chuck, “He shops in the big and tall shop,” I thought to myself. Out of curiosity, I touched his arm and realized right away why he was perfect for competing in the 2010 Louisville Ironman event: his arm was flesh over steel.

Chuck’s physical appearance embodied the Ironman persona, but once he started sharing why he is involved in the cancer community, I heard right away the heart of a gentle giant, someone who has as much compassion for others as he has strength. Chuck, like millions, lost a loved one to cancer. Chuck’s best friend from childhood fought a long hard battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. To honor that friendship, which shaped him at a young age, Chuck started an organization to address the needs of the cancer community. His nonprofit has assisted families with everyday expenses while they are caring for a loved one who is hospitalized or undergoing treatment.

This approach to helping others in need is different from that of many organizations that raise money for cancer causes. Rarely do organizations give monies directly to individuals who are fighting cancer and, usually, untold financial stress at the same time.

Chuck’s foundation, Adventures Inside of Campus for a Cure, is a 501c3. Chuck and a few friends decided to fight cancer by pulling on a few of their favorite things: education, art, music, and good people. They use their collective resources to bring people together to have a ton of fun while making cancer awareness their top priority. Chuck and company do not see their group as an organization but a movement. “Our goals are to entertain through art and music, educate about the effects of cancer, and enlighten lives with the experiences we leave behind from city to city on our journey,” he said with a big grin. Adventures Inside a Campus for a Cure started in Kentucky in Chuck’s hometown but has found a huge following in Nashville and among individuals from around the world.

At the time of our meeting, Chuck was training for an Ironman competition that was held on August 29, in Louisville, Kentucky. He had been training with Centre College football coach Patrick Carter Conley since mid-December of 2009. Chuck shared with me his weekly training regimen, which included six days a week of swimming, biking, and running. When I asked about his strenuous workouts, he said they were brutal but would be worth it for a deserving family.

Many people donated money while Chuck was training and on the day of the event. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the event went to two unknowing and deserving families in Nashville, TN and Louisville, KY that have someone currently battling cancer. Chuck recruited two dear friends who worked in the medical fields from both cities to give him names of families in dire circumstances to be recipients of the donations.

If that was not enough, the organization’s donations to the family remained anonymous. After hearing him share this bit of information with a big grin, it was hard for me to fight back tears. He said he wanted the families to know that they were not alone in their courageous fight against cancer, and that many people out there want them to feel inspired by the power of love. Doesn’t every person fighting cancer need an Ironman fighting their battle for them?

Chuck’s advocacy does not stop at triathlon meets or music and art events. He wrote a book titled Adventures Inside a Bright Eyed Sky. ALL money from the book sales goes to families in need. Every cent. Chuck gave me an autographed copy that I rushed home to read right away. I read a story about a boy named Jay who was about to turn 13 and going through the challenges of life at that young age. Chuck uses the humor of middle-school minds to address grownup problems. The book is appropriate for all ages. As I read it, I found myself imagining Chuck as the young Jay.

Since receiving my copy, I have given the book to three families who have young children battling cancer. Their responses have all been the same: “Thank you for the book, I would love to meet the author someday.” With quiet giggles, I said to myself, “You will, you will,” as I took the families’ names to pass on to Chuck.

To learn more about Chuck Beard’s foundation go to its website.

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