Pagano gives back to cancer research at Chuckstrong Tailgate Gala

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 21, 2016) – There was no place Chuck Pagano would rather have been than Thursday evening at the Indianapolis Colts Indiana Farm Bureau Football center.

And there was no cause he would rather have been spearheading than the fourth annual Chuckstrong Tailgate Gala, which once again was benefiting cancer research at the IU Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center.

“I’ve got two jobs and everybody knows what my No. 1 job is,’’ Pagano said of his coaching responsibilities, “but this is a priority. I’m blessed to have a platform and we’re going to use the platform like we should use it.

“It’s a way to give back. It’s a way to serve.’’

More to the point, Pagano provides perspective. He’s living proof of the value of cancer research. He’s a cancer survivor.

Pagano was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia Sept. 26, 2012, roughly eight months after settling into his first NFL head coaching job. Dr. Larry Cripe, his leading physician at the IU Simon Cancer Center, informed Pagano he went into went into remission Nov. 5, 2012.

“Just to be able to have Dr. Cripe come in and say after 26 days in the hospital that you get to go home is huge,’’ Pagano said. “Then after a couple more months of treatment you’re in remission, you’re cancer-free.

“Nobody ever expects to hear those words ‘You have cancer.’ None of us do. We all think we’re invincible. But it’s a monster and it’s terrorizing our country and it touches everybody.’’

So whenever the opportunity presents itself, Pagano and his expanding circle of family, friends, doctors and players seize the moment. The first three Chuckstrong events raised more than $2.5 million. The fourth annual gala netted nearly $1.2 million, a record for the event. The tally included $250,000 from the Jim Irsay family and $50,000 from the coach and his wife, Tina.

“We’ve got a great passion for it,’’ Pagano said. “Our theme again this year is ‘Live in vision and not circumstance,’ and our vision is to find a way right here in Indy to stamp out cancer.

“We hope to raise a bunch of dollars to help these doctors and researchers continue to find cures for all cancers. Somebody a long time ago gave and was generous with what they had and doctors and researchers had resources available to come up with a cure for the type of leukemia that I had. If that didn’t happen, we wouldn’t be having this conversation tonight.

“We’re blessed to have what we have. It’s a privilege. To be able to give back and to serve is something very, very special.’’

So much so that dozens of Pagano’s players were on hand and, like their coach, mingled with the crowd.

“It’s not a show,’’ veteran linebacker Robert Mathis said. “Everybody supports him. He’s our guy. (We) went to bat for him.

“He’s here and we support him and he supports us.’’