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.