Saline resident Tammi Carr, Co-Founder of the ChadTough Foundation, delivered the Commencement Address to 442 graduating Saline High School students at Hornet Stadium Sunday.
Carr and her husband Jason Carr founded the ChadTough Foundation after their four-year-old son, Chad, was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma and given nine to 12 months to live in 2014. ChadTough became a rallying cry, in Saline and around the world, in support of the Carrs.
On Sunday, Carr urged students to listen to the “little voice” inside them and face challenges with faith.
“Amazing opportunities will present themselves to you in college, in your vocation and in your life. Many of those opportunities will terrify you, but I’m here today to tell you it’s important to push through and not let what’s in store for you pass you by,” Carr said.
Carr, a Florida native, remembers the anxiety she felt when she left her home to study at the University of Michigan.
“I was trusting that little voice inside of me that was urging me to move forward. For me, I believe that little voice is God talking, lighting my path with that little feeling. You may call that little voice the universe, intuition or a gut feeling. No matter what you call it, I believe you should lean on that voice as the guide and have faith.”
After college Carr spent six years working in television before the little voice told her it was time to do something more meaningful. She went to work for Mott Hospital as a fundraiser.
In 2014, the little voice began telling Carr terrifying news about her four-year-old son, Chad, who was experiencing difficulty. The Carrs pushed for more tests, which soon revealed her son had Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, an inoperable brain tumor.
“We were told our little boy had 9 to 12 months to live. I literally fell flat on my face when I received that news and I honestly never wanted to get up again,” Carr said.
Again, the little voice spoke to Tammi.
“I knew we had to do something. It wasn’t enough to fight for Chad. We had to share his story and shine a light on DIPG, a disease that has received virtually zero funding over the past 60 years,” Carr said. “It continues to take children’s lives, year after year.”
The Carrs opened their family situation for virtually all to see, knowing it wouldn’t be easy and knowing people would judge them. The family asked for and received the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people. The support of people in Saline and around the world made it more possible to have fun as a family during Chad’s limited time on earth, and provided the support the family needed as it sought out new treatment and made difficult decisions about Chad’s care.
During Chad’s ordeal, the Carrs formed The ChadTough Foundation to share Chad’s message and to fund research of DIPG.
“Doing that as we were going through so much pain was difficult, but we knew it was right,” Carr said. “After we lost our beautiful little boy, the foundation became his legacy and what we could focus on to get through the pain.”
The foundation has raised millions of dollars for DIPG research.
“I’ve heard it said that fear is the number one thing that keeps us from our destiny and faith is the number one thing that moves us towards it,” Carr said. “Don’t run away when life hands you difficult opportunities. And please keep your faith.”
Jason and Tammi Carr live around the corner from Saline High School. Their sons attend Saline Area Schools.