We’ve all been there before; in a situation where we see something that bothers us to our core and we ask ourselves what can we do to help. The majority of us may donate a few dollars to the cause, or devote a little bit of our time to help someone in need. But usually within a couple days or weeks, we slowly begin to forget what once affected us so strongly. We may think about it from time to time, but it doesn’t have a true impact on our lives. However, not all of us take the easy path; after going through a similar experience, San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Zane Beadles decided to devote himself to making a true difference.
While playing for the Utes of the University of Utah, Zane had an opportunity to meet a 7-year old boy named Ryker, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Ryker was given the opportunity to join the Utes for every practice and game of their season, and became a true part of the Utes family. During this time, Beadles was able to get to know Ryker, and the two become friends. When Ryker lost his battle with the disease, Beadles knew he wanted to do more to help children in need.
After Beadles was drafted by the Denver Broncos, he did some research on pediatric cancer and discovered Brent’s Place. Brent’s Place provides uniquely tailored support programs for families with children who have been diagnosed with cancer. They provide fully furnished apartments designed to provide an optimal clean environment for immunocompromised patients, completely free of charge. After learning about the organization, Beadles decided to donate $250 for each “pancake block” recorded by the Broncos’ offensive line.
Beadles’ work with Brent’s Place was only the beginning of his journey to help children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. It was at Brent’s Place where Beadles met Julie Gart, a development manager who helped him start the Zane Beadles Parade Foundation. In order for Beadles to create a successful organization, he needed to find a strong leader with a passion for helping others to run the day-to-day operations. Since the organization’s founding over four years ago, Gart has remained its only employee, but she receives a tremendous amount of support from Beadles, his family and the foundation’s board of directors. “Zane has teamwork on the field and we [at the foundation] have teamwork off the field,” says Gart. Gart has devoted her entire career to helping those in need. After graduating from college, she worked for Lady Bird Johnson at the LBJ Library. “It was then that I realized that I always wanted to do something that gave back,” says Gart.
Since its inception, the Zane Beadles Parade Foundation has raised close to $500,000 through a variety of fundraising events to support more than 3,500 families. They have grown their pancake breakfast from 75 attendees in its first year to more than 200 this past year. Their most successful event is their golf tournament, which raised over $100,000 this year. Their fundraising efforts go towards a variety of causes that help the families of children who are going through medical challenges. The Zane Beadles Parade Foundation partners with a variety of organizations that assist in making a positive impact on these families. Gart and Beadles believe that one of the most important ways to help support these children and their families is to provide them with an escape from their diagnosis. These escapes vary from sending families to NFL games, sponsoring Mother’s Day brunches, free trips to the movies and a variety of other events that help these young people and their families enjoy life.
For the 2017 NFL season, the Zane Beadles Parade Foundation has developed Hometown Heroes, where they will send one child and a family member to each of the 49ers’ home games. While attending the game, they will have the opportunity to be on the field during warmups, and meet Beadles after the game. This is an opportunity of a lifetime for these kids and their family members, and will provide well-deserved relief from the pain that comes from being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. Another exciting upcoming event for the Zane Beadles Parade Foundation is their building of a sport court at Brent’s Place. The sport court will have foursquare, volleyball and a variety of other sports for children and their families to play in a clean environment. “The families we work with are tackling the biggest challenges they will ever face in their lifetime,” says Gart. the Zane Beadles Parade Foundation’s goal is to support these families both inside and outside of the hospital, and to make this time in their life as enjoyable as possible.
Sometimes in life, two people just click. It’s often tough to put into words why the connection works but it just does. “Every day, I get to get up and do something that’s meaningful in someone else’s life and I thank Zane for that,” says Gart. Thankfully, for hundreds of children diagnosed with life-threatening diseases, Beadles and Gart work — really well.
Learn more information about the Zane Beadles Parade Foundation and how you can support Zane and Julie at zanesparade.org.