Chad Carr, 5, 'left the earth peacefully,' mom says
On Sept. 23, 2014, Tammi and Jason Carr's world was rocked by a diagnosis that their nearly 4-year-old son, Chad, had an inoperable brain tumor.
They had two options: embrace their son privately or share his fight with the world.
The decision to embrace his challenge spread globally over the past 15 months as #ChadTough became an international slogan, with people around the world aware of his fight.
That is why so many were affected when that battle against Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, the aggressive tumor, ended on Monday with Chad's passing at age 5.
Tammi wrote on the Pray For Chad Carr Facebook page: "At 1:21pm today, exactly 15 months since his DIPG diagnosis, Chad gained his angel wings. He left the earth peacefully and is now running and jumping in heaven. It is well with his soul."
The reach was apparent Monday as Lloyd Carr, the former Michigan coach, and ChadTough were the top two trends on Facebook well into Monday afternoon with #ChadTough among the top trends on Twitter as well.
Chad, the grandson of College Football Hall of Famer Lloyd Carr and Hall of Fame U-M safety Tom Curtis, had an instant platform to reach across the country and his parents embraced that.
Initially, Tammi wanted the reach for prayers.
Strong in her Christian beliefs, she felt passionately that the more people praying for Chad, the more it would strengthen him in his fight.
But she later admitted the family never realized he would connect with so many people on so many levels.
Not just in Michigan, where the Carrs have built generations of relationships from Lloyd's presence as a high school coach working his way up to the top of the profession or Jason's connection as a former Michigan quarterback. But to Miami, where Tammi grew up. And throughout the sports community, which embraced their family.
At U-M, it was throughout the university community, but especially in the athletic department, from the ubiquitous "Pray for Chad Carr" orange wristbands to the football team honoring him for a pregame coin toss last fall and again this year to the Michigan softball team, which adopted Chad and his brothers as part of their team, to the Michigan basketball staff, which partnered with the Ohio State staff to have the Carrs' house decorated with Christmas lights a few weeks ago so the family could give Chad his Christmas in the final days.
U-M basketball coach John Beilein opened his news conference Monday, not long after the news came out, choked up trying to talk about Chad.
"Our condolences goes out to all the Carrs," he said Monday afternoon. "We've all followed the situation so closely, my assistant coaches and myself and Kathleen are such great friends of not just Lloyd and Laurie and the Carr family, but Jason, Tammi and everyone. It's a sad day and I'm sure there's going be a positive an awareness of childhood brain cancer and what we can all do going forward."
Support came from everywhere, even Michigan's rivals. Michigan State's band spelled out ChadTough on the field after last year's U-M/MSU game. The Spartans and Buckeyes also put a decals for the family's foundation during last weekend's game.
Even before Monday, ESPN's "College Gameday" spent time with the family and in Ann Arbor for a piece that will air on this weekend's show about Chad.
The love was the 15-month thread, with Tammi's continuous social media updates on Chad's condition, to the family's travels, trying to value every day they had remaining.
They took a Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World last fall and recently went back again, to give him one more experience with Mickey Mouse.
Everything was an option in his treatment, which was based at U-M's Mott Children's Hospital, but extended to experimental trials at a New York hospital and even experimental treatments in the final days after the family announced Nov. 11 he would enter hospice.
The initial estimates were 9-to-12 months so as Chad moved past in September, the family was excited but conflicted.
"I wish I could explain time to people," Tammi said about their process. "You want it to speed up, you want it to slow down. To speed up so you can get over the hump, to slow down so it doesn't go too fast, because you don't want it to go. "
But Tammi's professional experience, her years working in development for Mott connecting many of the most famous Wolverines to donate to build the current hospital, was thrust into Chad's world.
Friends helped organize a fundraising run last fall to support the family's medical expenses but the support was so strong that it became a cause. The family created the ChadTough Foundation to fight pediatric brain cancer and began to spread the word. There were garage sales around the country in Chad's name (because he loved garage sales), there was a second annual run in early October. It brought in more than 1,000 participants and raised over $120,000 for the charity.
When the charity went public in May, Tammi pointed out it was for more than just Chad, it was to prevent their burden from falling on another family.
"(Basketball player) Lauren Hill was a fantastic ambassador for DIPG, and she did everything she could in the time she had, but … they're all kids and there aren't many who could speak for themselves," Carr said at the time. "We had to have something that was broader. We want to find treatments for this and ultimately find a cure.
"We hope for Chad, we're still hanging onto that miracle. He's on an experimental drug and we want to create this now because we want to fund research that can potentially help this now — but ultimately we know this is a long-term goal.
"And we're going to be a part of it forever."
The family said services will be announced at a later time.
Sports figures we've lost in 2015:
Contact Mark Snyder email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @mark__snyder. Download our new Wolverines Xtra appon iTunesandAndroid! If you'd like to make a donation to the ChadTough Foundation, visit chadtough.org/donate.