Struck by Chad Carr’s devastating DIPG diagnosis in 2014, Therri Oberdick was determined to do something to help that could engage the entire community. Putting her marketing skills to work, Therri, along with some of her coworkers, put together an idea for what would become the ChadTough Defeat DIPG Foundation Gala. That idea has now led to generating more than $7.5M toward childhood brain cancer research. Hoping to inspire others, we’re excited to share Therri’s story of how she got involved!
In November of 2015, a tearful room of nearly 500 people gave Lloyd Carr a standing ovation as he accepted an award on behalf of The ChadTough Foundation at an annual event called Deals of the Year. The black tie gala, hosted by MLive, was created as a way to celebrate outstanding businesses in Washtenaw County, MI, and the impact they had on the community. While successful, the company had decided that 2015 would be the final year of the event as they explored other ways to serve the community as a whole, beyond the business sector.
Therri Oberdick, a sales manager for MLive at the time, sat in awe as Lloyd Carr, widely regarded as one of the most impressive University of Michigan football coaches, took to the podium to accept an award on behalf of his family for most outstanding new nonprofit. That night, Lloyd’s son and daughter-in-law, Jason and Tammi Carr, were busy creating an early “Christmas” for their 5-year-old son. Chad, Lloyd’s youngest grandson, was suffering from a disease called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), an aggressive brain tumor that would claim his life just 10 days later.
Therri watched as tremendous emotion took over the ballroom as Lloyd spoke. She looked around at the crowd who all seemed to share Lloyd’s grief and wondered how an event such as Deals of the Year might somehow benefit ChadTough.
“I instantly locked eyes with a few of my coworkers and instantly knew they were thinking the same thing,” Therri remembers. “If ChadTough were to host a similar event, it could take the foundation to the next level and engage the whole community in a tremendously meaningful way.”
In the wake of Chad’s death, the entire Washtenaw County community and beyond seemed to mourn the loss of such an innocent child. The fact that very little government funding went toward research of the disease left people wide and far with a great desire to get involved and help create change. It was too late to save Chad, but people seemed to recognize that their actions could change the future for other children who would face the devastating diagnosis.
Meanwhile, Therri was convinced that a gala, such as Deals of the Year, could have the potential to raise a significant amount of revenue for childhood brain cancer research. She waited for the right time to approach the Carr family, and then finally, a few months after Chad’s passing, she set up a meeting with Tammi.
INSPIRED BY POSSIBILITY
Therri Oberdick knew all too well the devastation of cancer. In 2013, after a breast cancer diagnosis, Therri underwent a double mastectomy. As she followed Chad’s journey, she became keenly aware that it was only through research, and the women who had walked in her path in the past, that she was able to beat her cancer. It struck her that DIPG research hadn’t progressed in decades due to lack of childhood cancer funding. Children like Chad had no hope.
“I am alive today because of the women that came before me and the research that ensued,” said Therri. “But kids facing DIPG, especially in 2015, had no hope. And that is unacceptable.”
In February of 2016, just three months after Chad passed away Therri, along with members of the MLive leadership team, met with Tammi to discuss the idea of offering pro bono marketing and creative resources to help ChadTough host a gala of their own.
“It was the best way to transition Deals of the Year into a meaningful benefit to the foundation,” said Therri. “We all felt it was the right thing to do.”
Inspired by possibility, Tammi did her best to channel her tremendous grief into something remarkable. She was able to gain the support of University of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and his wife, Sarah, as the event co-chairs, and with Therri and hundreds of supporters eager to help, The ChadTough Foundation announced it would host the first Champions for Change Gala on May 13, 2017, at Al Glick Field House in Ann Arbor, MI.
Despite having only 8 months to plan, the gala team set an ambitious goal of raising $1 million for both ChadTough and Michigan Medicine to accelerate pediatric brain cancer research. Tammi’s expertise in development at Mott Children’s Hospital, Therri’s marketing skills, and the dedication of hundreds of supporters came together to create a magical evening. The gala transformed the field house into a beautiful ballroom adorned in hues of orange, Chad’s favorite color, attracting nearly 1,000 attendees, including prominent athletes and former Michigan football players. The event’s overwhelming support and generosity resulted in raising $1.5 million to advance the foundation’s vital mission.
CHANGING THE FUTURE
True to Therri’s vision, the gala has since evolved into one of the foundation’s signature events, raising close to $7.5 million in total for childhood brain cancer research. Now called the ChadTough Defeat DIPG Foundation Gala, plans for the 2024 event are already underway, with Detroit Lions football player Aidan Hutchinson and retired University of Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins taking the helm as co-chairs (“Hutch & Hutch”). The event will take place on Saturday, May 11, at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor and will again feature its popular live and silent auctions.
Therri, now retired from MLive, remains an integral part of planning the gala, her unwavering dedication and passion a driving force behind its continued success. Together, with the shared commitment of the community, the gala remains a beacon of light as it paves the way to a future where no child faces the darkness of DIPG without hope.