Posts Tagged ‘Keasha Rutledge Draft’

Family, friends honor Keasha Rutledge Draft’s memory

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

CLEMSON, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Family, friends honor Keasha Rutledge Draft

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

CLEMSON, SC (FOX Carolina) -
Chris Draft, a former NFL linebacker, first met LaKeasha Rutledge back in 2006 in Charlotte, NC.

“It’s crazy how things work together,” Draft said. “My cousin met a friend of hers up in New York City.”

Back in 2006, Draft was making moves on the football field with the Carolina Panthers. Before they met, Keasha Rutledge danced with the NBA Charlotte Hornets’ Honeybees and worked as an engineer.

While they dated, Draft played for several teams and in 2010 he retired. During that time, Rutledge decided to train for the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston.

“She really wanted to run it, so she was training,” Draft said. “She was in shape. She was strong, and because of that she just felt this little shortness of breath.”

That shortness of breath led to chest X-rays and a CT scan.

“She got the chest X-ray and the results came back and there was a mass,” Draft said. “That was right before Christmas in 2010. She got a biopsy a couple days after Christmas and it was confirmed it was lung cancer.”

At 37 years old, Rutledge, a non-smoker, was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.

“In football we’re taught and told this could be the last game that you play,” Draft said. “And this situation was one of those that takes that so much more to that extreme.”

During those months, they made a commitment to fight. And on Nov. 27, 2011, in front of family and friends, Draft and Rutledge made another commitment to one another and got married.

“That’s my wife!” Draft said. “That’s my wife! You know? We’re going to hold on and we’re going to fight. We’re going to continue to fight.”

He said Keasha Rutledge Draft danced, smiled and lived each day and encouraged others to do the same.

A month to the day after they were married, Keasha Rutledge Draft died.

“And what helped her live was great family, great friends that remembered her of the importance of standing up and being a woman,” Draft said.

So now, instead of pads and a helmet, Draft suits up for Team Draft.

He doesn’t travel with a team of linebackers, receivers or running backs, but he still goes from city to city but with a new playbook. The new game plan is to raise money for lung cancer research in Keasha Rutledge Draft’s honor.

“Our hope is that when people think of lung cancer, they’re not going to think of a cigarette anymore,” Draft said. “But they’ll see Keasha, they’ll see her face and they’ll realize it’s people, it’s not just a disease, it’s people who need our help. I don’t want to see Keasha just as someone that passed away from lung cancer, but really someone that lived.”

Those who love her want to continue to honor her strength. Tiko Thurman, Keasha Rutledge Draft’s cousin, said she was more like a sister.

“We (were) just extremely close,” Thurman said.

Keasha Rutledge Draft grew up in Williamston and as an only child, family members said faith and family came first. She graduated from high school an academic scholar and chose to attend Clemson University. She graduated with a degree in electrical engineering.

“She was just that person when she walked into a room, things would change, people would brighten up,” Thurman said.

So, when doctors diagnosed her with stage four lung cancer, it was hard to understand.

“When Keasha got it, it really just opened my eyes to this is a deadly disease that can attack anyone, the healthiest person,” Thurman said.

Dr. Billy Bolton, a thoracic surgeon with the Greenville Hospital System didn’t treat Keasha Rutledge Draft but said her story is unfortunately a familiar one. Keasha Rutledge Draft had a form of lung cancer known as non-small cell lung cancer.

“Non-small cell lung cancer makes up the majority of lung cancer in the United States; about 75 to 85 percent of all patients,” Bolton said.” So what happens is there’s a mutation in that cell of the lung and then it continues to grow more rapidly than the other cells in that lung.”

Bolton said often times the diagnosis can be linked to two factors.

“Those two factors – secondhand smoke and radon gas, probably account for the majority of them,” Bolton said.

But he said progress is being made with research and new medicines.

“I think it would mean a whole lot to be able to see your mom and dad for four or five more years or however long it might be,” Bolton said.

One of Keasha Rutledge Draft’s closest friends, Jessie Hood, said her friend had a way of making others feel special.

“She would never ask, I never heard her say why me? She just accepted that this is what God had for her and she was going to fight,” Hood said.

They met at Clemson University and became sorority sisters.

“Her life was very special. She was a special person, she was a beautiful person, she had such capacity to love. Her heart was so big. She was an academic scholar, but she was the life of the party. She was a dancer, but she was an engineer too and she just lived each day,” Hood said.

She said her friend would light up the floor when she danced as a rally cat at Clemson, or when she shared intimate moments with friends and family.

“Her relationship with her mother was very special. Not only did they have a mother-daughter relationship, but they were really best friends too,” Hood said.

So in her honor, the Keasha Rutledge Draft Memorial Scholarship is set up for Clemson students.

“Not only are we helping future Clemson undergraduate students, we’re also helping the university,” Hood said.

And Thurman said he always knew his cousin would do big things, and though it’s tough without her, he said he’s learned a lot about life by witnessing the way she lived.

“Make sure that we make everyday a positive day. Make sure we find great things in everyday and just live life like God intended us to do. He said he wants us to live life and live it more abundantly,” Thurman said.

If you would like to be a part of Team Draft, you can donate to the Keasha Rutledge Draft Memorial Scholarship fund. All donations are tax deductible and benefit the Clemson fund.

Family and friends honor Keasha Rutledge Draft, who died after battling stage four lung cancer.

Team Draft: Notes From the National Campaign Trail

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Sunday, May 13th would have been Keasha’s 39th birthday.  Team Draft marked the occasion by kicking off a week-long bicoastal tour in support of our national campaign to change the face of lung cancer.  The tour took Team Draft to our 30th cancer treatment facility, to the set of Dancing With The Stars, and to Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers.  And none of this would have been possible without the generation support and donations of people like you.  Please help us continue the campaign by making a donation today:

 Finding HOPE on the West Coast

 Team Draft began the tour in Southern California.  On Monday, we had the opportunity to sit down with the newly-appointed Director of Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego, Dr. Scott Lippman.  And on Wednesday, Team Draft achieved a major milestone when we visited our 30th cancer treatment facility since launching the national campaign: USC’s Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. Thanks to cutting-edge research like that being performed at these state-of-the-art facilities, for the first time in decades, there is hope in the fight against lung cancer.

Applying revolutionary genomic approaches, researchers have now identified the molecular changes in certain genes that cause some lung cancer tumors to grow.  This discovery opens the door for the development of targeted drugs designed to stop tumor growth in its tracks by interfering with the growth receptors in these mutated genes.  These new targeted drug therapies are extending the lives of some patients by several months, and in some cases, even years.

The key to making even greater strides (and ultimately saving lives) is funding, but funding for lung cancer research is impacted by the stigma that it is a “smoker’s disease.”  The truth is, anybody can get lung cancer—a fact underscored on Thursday by the tragic death from lung cancer of disco legend Donna Summers, who was a non-smoker like Keasha.  That’s why Team Draft is campaigning to change the face of lung cancer and to raise public awareness.  Thankfully, we are not alone.

Before leaving the West Coast, Team Draft visited the set of Dancing With The Stars to show our support for the show’s lung cancer awareness efforts.  This season, DWTS Pros Jonathan Roberts and Anna Trebunskaya performed a tribute dance in honor their friend and fellow ballroom dancer, Julia Ivleva, who is in the middle of her own battle with Stage IV Lung Cancer.  Jonathan, Anna, and Julia embody the dance, smile, and live philosophy, and Team Draft thanks DWTS for helping to shine a light on lung cancer.

Raising AWARENESS on the East Coast

 After completing the West Coast leg of the tour, Team Draft headed to back to the East Coast.  We concluded the tour on Saturday by taking part in two events to raise awareness and funding for cancer research in Keasha’s adopted hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Team Draft began the day at Charlotte’s Park Road Park where Chris addressed a crowd of lung cancer survivors, advocates, and supporters at The North Carolina Lung Cancer Partnership’s inaugural Free to Breathe 5K and Rally. The event raised money for lung cancer research and advocacy.

After the Rally, Team Draft headed to Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers.  As a Panther’s linebacker, Chris used to come to the Stadium to tackle opposing quarterbacks.  On Saturday, Team Draft was there to tackle cancer by participating in the Keep Pounding 5K Stadium Run in support of the Panther’s Keep Pounding Fund and pediatric cancer research at Levine Children’s Hospital.

Team Draft’s national campaign to change the face of lung cancer would not be possible without support from people like you.  Your donation will help ensure that we can continue to raise public awareness of the true nature of the disease and increase the funding needed to tackle it.

To learn more about Team Draft, share your story, and respond and donate, visit  You can follow the national campaign to change the face of lung cancer on our blog at, and don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook at , and also

LA Clippers Pay Tribute to Keasha Draft

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012
Chris Draft and the Spirit Dance Team

Chris Draft and the Spirit Dance Team

This evening, the LA Clippers’ Spirit Dance Team joined other NBA and NCAA dance squads that have honored Keasha’s memory by performing dance tributes.  During the Clippers’ game against the Denver Nuggets, the Spirit Dance Team performed a specially choreographed dance in Keasha’s honor.  Through their dance tribute, the Spirit Dance Team is helping Team Draft change the face of lung cancer by helping us spread the word that anybody can get lung cancer—even non-smokers like Keasha.

As a former Charlotte Hornets Honeybee Dancer , Keasha loved dancing.  It gave her strength and hope.  And thanks to the Spirit Dance Team and the other NBA and NCAA dance squads that have performed dance tributes, Keasha is still dancing today.

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Dance, Smile, Live at St. Joseph’s Center for Cancer Prevention and Treatment

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Team Draft ended the West Coast leg of its national campaign to change the face of lung cancer with a stop at St. Joseph’s Center for Cancer Prevention and Treatment in Orange, California where we met DeeDee Weathers-Cox, a former Laker Girl who is using dance therapy to help cancer survivors.  During free weekly classes, DeeDee uses dance not only as way to help cancer survivors stay fit, but to treat the psychological scares that often accompany a cancer diagnosis.

Like DeeDee, Keasha understood the therapeutic power of dance.  Following her first chemotherapy treatment, she and Chris made a video of her dancing to send a message to their friends and family that they would dance, smile, and live no matter what.  Read the full article on the Orange County Register’s website.

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San Francisco’s Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center is Tackling Lung Cancer

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Today, Team Draft had the privilege of touring UC San Francisco’s Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center (UCSF) with lung cancer survivor and advocate, Bonnie J. Addario.  Five years ago, Bonnie was diagnosed with Stage IIIB non-small cell lung cancer.  She was given only a 2% chance of survival.  Like Keasha, Bonnie is a fighter, and after life-saving surgery performed at UCSF, she is now cancer free.  But, for Bonnie the fight isn’t over.

Bonnie is a tireless advocate.  She is the founder of both the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (BJALCF) and its partner organization, the Addario Lung Cancer Medical Institute (ALCMI).  Through research, awareness, and advocacy efforts, BJALCF and ALCMI are working to increase the survival rate for lung cancer.

Team Draft is proud to call Bonnie a friend, and we look forward to working closely with BJALCF and ALCMI as we change the face of lung cancer.

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Charlotte Bobcats Pay Tribute to Keasha Draft

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

The Charlotte Bobcats’ Lady Cats dance team paid tribute to Keasha tonight with a special dance dedicated to her memory performed during the Bobcats’ game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

As a former Charlotte Hornets Honeybee Dancer , Keasha loved dancing.  It gave her strength and hope.  And after her first chemotherapy treatment, she and Chris made a video of her dancing to send a message to her friends and family that she would keep dancing no matter what, and as a reminder to always dance, smile, and live.

Thanks to the Lady Cat’s and the other NBA and NCAA dance squads that have performed dance tributes, Keasha is still dancing today. See Keasha’s dance after her first chemo treatment on the Team Draft Vimeo page.

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Team Draft Keeps Pounding in Charlotte

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Team Draft travelled to Charlotte, North Carolina today—a city that holds a special place in our hearts.  Although born in Anderson, South Carolina, Charlotte was Keasha’s adopted hometown before she moved to Atlanta to be with Chris.  And it is in Charlotte where Chris and Keahsa first met and fell in love.  At the time, Chris was playing for the Carolina Panthers and Keasha was working for Sanofi-Aventis Pharmaceuticals.

Team Draft came to Charlotte to visit the Levine Cancer Institute (LCI) at Carolinas Medical Center.  Team Draft toured LCI and met with hospital administrators, doctors, and staff members in support of our  efforts to promote cancer awareness, research, and scholarship, and to improve the patient treatment experience by identifying and promoting best practices.

As one of the newest cancer centers in the country, LCI is revolutionizing the cancer treatment model by redefining the traditional cancer center.  Traditionally, cancer care services are centralized on flagship campuses, but LCI is taking the opposite approach, offering compassionate, state-of-the-art  care to patients at facilities throughout both North and South Carolina.  By eliminating natural distance barriers between cancer centers, LCI is giving patients the home field advantage in their fight against cancer.

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Derek Raghavan, M.D., Ph.D, Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, NC from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.


Former NFL Linebacker Chris Draft Announces the Keasha Rutledge Draft Memorial Scholarship at Clemson University

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Clemson, SC- On Tuesday, February 7, Chris Draft, former NFL linebacker and founder of the Chris Draft Family Foundation, announced the Keasha Rutledge Draft Memorial Scholarship to the Clemson University family in honor of his late wife Keasha, a proud Clemson alumna.  The Scholarship, which was announced at the Tiger’s basketball game against ACC rival Maryland, was created to provide an opportunity for Clemson students to further their studies in pursuit of their dreams, will be awarded annually to special students who embody Keasha’s strength and determination. The game featured a special tribute by Clemson’s Rally Cats, the University’s official dance team.  All of the night’s dances were dedicated to Keasha, a former Rally Cat.

Tuesday’s introduction marks Team Draft’s initial effort to galvanize Keasha’s Clemson family to aid in supporting the Keasha Rutledge Draft Memorial Scholarship for Clemson University undergraduate students. “Tonight’s Rally Cat tribute to Keasha captured her vibrance and effervescence.  Team Draft is grateful that the Clemson family has engaged the Clemson alumni to support and donate to the Keasha Rutledge Draft Memorial Scholarship,” said Chris Draft.  “We are excited and gratified that Keasha’s Clemson family has embraced Team Draft and our fight to tackle cancer.”

The Keasha Rutledge Draft Memorial Scholarship is an effort of Team Draft, a Chris Draft Family Foundation initiative created by the Foundation’s co-founders during her year-long fight with devastating stage four lung cancer.  Following her diagnosis in December 2010, Keasha chose to continue to live, smile and dance, while at the same time deciding to elevate the public consciousness of lung cancer by eradicating the stigma and stereotypes associated with the disease.  Chris and Keasha’s Team Draft initiative embodies the spirit of Keasha’s courageous fight.

A healthy, energetic and vibrant woman, who never smoked and was the picture of health when diagnosed, Keasha spent the past year showing her friends and family how important it is to hold onto life and love, while continuing to smile.  The Keasha Rutledge Draft Memorial Scholarship will give Clemson University undergraduate students the opportunity to follow in her footsteps.  Her hope, and her husband’s hope, is to give others the chance to live, dance and smile, while they find their way in the world.

On Tuesday night, the Clemson Rally Cats dedicated the entire night to Keasha’s memory, designating the first dance of the game as a tribute to her courageousness and vibrance, which serves as a light that continues to inspire the Rally Cats.  Wearing pearls and pearl-colored ribbons in honor of Keasha and her valiant fight against lung cancer, the Rally Cats and the entire Clemson family have joined Team Draft to change the face of cancer . . . one breath at a time.

The Clemson family, Team Draft and the Rally Cats are committed to assembling the necessary resources to ensure that Keasha’s light continues to shine, and to give young people the same opportunities Keasha had as a Clemson student, and then as a Clemson alum.   The Keasha Rutledge Draft Memorial Scholarship, funded solely by donations, exists to support undergraduate education at Clemson University.  As part of Team Draft’s campaign to raise awareness and shatter stigmas that plague lung cancer and impact funding, the Keasha Rutledge Draft Memorial Scholarship’s support of Clemson undergraduates plays a crucial role in educating future generations.  Ensuring that Clemson undergraduates follow in Keasha’s footsteps and bring vibrant energy to their studies and post-undergraduate plans, Team Draft’s introduction of the Keasha Rutledge Draft Memorial Scholarship is the beginning of a nation-wide effort to raise the funds necessary to help future Clemson Tigers make their mark, just as Keasha has.  To support the Keasha Rutledge Draft Memorial Scholarship and help remember a beautiful life, please visit Keasha’s special page at Clemson University’s Giving website.

Clemson University Rallycats tribute to Keasha Ruledge Draft from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.