LUNGevity Foundation is proud to announce former NFL linebacker Chris Draft as the August LUNGevity Hero. Since the passing of his late wife LaKeasha “Keasha” Rutledge-Draft, Chris has become an important advocate in the fight against lung cancer. Inspired by Keasha’s brave fight against lung cancer, he has made it his mission to raise awareness of the disease, shatter its stigma, and raise funds for life-saving research.
In December of 2010 Chris’ world was turned upside down when his wife was diagnosed with lung cancer. At 37 years old, she was a never-smoker and a self-proclaimed “health nut.” While training for a 10-kilometer run, Keasha began to experience shortness of breath. It escalated quickly, so she sought medical advice, and after tests and a CT scan, she was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. The prognosis was bad – the cancer had already spread to her brain.
Keasha had an optimistic and positive personality and refused to be discouraged by her prognosis. Although the odds were slim, together the Drafts were determined to beat the disease. On their wedding day, just 11 months after her diagnosis, Keasha and Chris announced the launch of their lung cancer foundation, Team Draft. Unfortunately, exactly one month later, Keasha lost her battle.
To honor her memory and to inform the greater community, Chris made it his mission to change the face of lung cancer and abolish the misconception that lung cancer is only a “smoker’s disease.”
“Chris Draft has shown remarkable dedication to raising lung cancer awareness and putting an end to the harmful stigma associated with lung cancer,” said Andrea Ferris, president and chairman of LUNGevity Foundation. “LUNGevity is glad to have passionate individuals like Chris on our side in the fight against lung cancer.”
Team Draft has worked closely with the NFL to raise awareness through events such as “Tackling Cancer with the St. Louis Rams” and “A Survivor in Every Stadium” and has partnered with other lung cancer nonprofits to further important initiatives. Draft was also recognized for his influential work in the lung cancer community by the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference)/W.O.M.E.N at the 33rd Annual Drum Major for Justice Awards, and was named a Global Envoy by LIVESTRONG. In his down time, Chris dedicates time to the Chris Draft Family Foundation, which empowers families to lead healthy lifestyles by focusing on education, healthy lifestyles, character development, personal responsibility, self-discipline, and physical fitness.