Third CHUCKSTRONG tailgate gala raises record $720,000 for research at IU Simon Cancer Center

April 30, 2015

The CHUCKSTRONG Tailgate Gala on April 24 set a record, raising the most money in its three-year history for cancer research at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center.

Hosted by the Indianapolis Colts and head coach Chuck Pagano at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, the tailgate gala raised more than $720,000 through corporate sponsorships and live and silent auctions. The total also included $50,000 that was given by the coach and his wife, Tina, as a matching gift.

"The doctors, the scientists, the researchers, that's who we're honoring tonight," Coach Pagano said. "They're selfless, selfless people. They spend their entire lives trying to find cures for cancer. That's what this event is all about, raising money for cancer research. Our goal is hopefully to find a cure for all blood cancers.”

The public can still participate in the CHUCKSTRONG Champion social media campaign for a chance to win a VIP Game Day Experience, which includes two tickets to a 2015 Colts home game, pre-game sideline passes, a meet-and-greet with Coach Chuck Pagano, and a personalized game ball featuring the name of the winner’s CHUCKSTRONG Champion.

Fans are encouraged to share a photo on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Vine and to include a few words about why the person represents the qualities of CHUCKSTRONG: strength, perseverance, compassion, love, family, community, serving and giving back. Photos should be tagged #CHUCKSTRONG. The deadline for entries is 5 p.m. Friday, May 12. To view entries or submit a photo directly through the CHUCKSTRONG Champion page, fans can visit   

As part of the campaign, the Colts will also match the first $10,000 in donations to the Colts Foundation to support research at the IU Simon Cancer Center. Donations may be made at   

Pete Ward, chief operating officer of the Indianapolis Colts and chairman of the cancer center’s development board, shared the credit of the successful event. "The Colts are honored to host the CHUCKSTRONG Tailgate Gala for the third consecutive year in support of the IU Simon Cancer Center and the vital research they do here in our community. This event would not be possible without the tremendous support we receive from our local companies and foundations." 

Top-level "touchdown" sponsors for the event were Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, DairyChem, the Efroymson Family Fund, Huntington, Lilly Oncology, and Sol and Kay Raso. 

Amid a celebratory atmosphere with Colts cheerleaders and more than 50 players, guests at the tailgate gala participated in activities such as a 40-yard dash, punt returns, and tackling stations on the Colts practice field before they turned their attention to raising money for cancer research.

Funds from the tailgate gala will be used to support cancer research projects that accelerate the translation of laboratory discoveries to the bedside of patients in Indiana and beyond. Research is at the heart of supporting advancements to find better ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer.

“On behalf of the IU Simon Cancer Center, we are humbled by all who have made this event happen,” said Patrick Loehrer, M.D., director of the IU Simon Cancer Center. “By grasping the importance of cancer research in successfully treating his leukemia, Coach Pagano is leading a call to arms to the Colts family and our community to do the same for all types of cancer. Our cancer researchers and the patients in Indiana and beyond are better because of the coach’s passion and the entire Colts organization.”

In all, the CHUCKSTRONG initiative has raised $2.5 million for cancer research at IU after Pagano was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia nearly three years ago. Last year, the event raised $661,427. The inaugural event in 2013 raised $650,322. The sales of CHUCKSTRONG T-shirts and wrist bands and other donations raised an additional $454,600, bringing the first-year total to $1.1 million.