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January 29, 2014
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Tahoe couple donates Super Bowl trip to boy with Stage IV cancer

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The Super Bowl isn’t until Sunday, but there already have been multiple winners.

Megan and Gary Kasden, winners of the Gene Upshaw Memorial Fund Super Bowl Raffle, are paying their good fortune forward.

Last month, the Incline Village couple won the grand prize of an all-expense paid trip for two to Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey.

The news came at just the right time — Gary has just completed a long series of chemotherapy treatments at the Gene Upshaw Memorial Tahoe Forest Cancer Center, and the husband and wife were looking forward to the trip as a celebration to start the new year.

A compromised immune system and a bout of the flu put Gary in the hospital last week. Megan called Martha Simon, director of fund development with Tahoe Forest Health System Foundation, to tell her they could not travel to the East Coast and asked for her help in finding a recipient for the prize. 

Simon called Debbie Strickland, executive director of the Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation, and with the help of Leslie Katich, director of programs and services, identified 16-year-old Kody Beach as the perfect recipient of this special Super Bowl package.

Beach, a junior at Spring Creek High School in Spring Creek, Nev., was diagnosed this past August with melanoma. Since, the diagnosis the cancer has metastasized to stage IV.

The prize would allow Kody and his father, Kirt, to attend Super Bowl XLVIII. After Simon shared the story with colleagues and key foundation stakeholders, they hoped there might be a way to send the whole family, including Kody’s mom, Carmen, and older brother, Cory, 18.

“We wanted to see if there was a way for Kody to experience this special day with his entire family,” Simon said. “The tickets arrived in my office last week and when I opened the envelope there were four tickets enclosed. We were only supposed to receive two. But after I called the NFL and told them this story, they agreed that we should extend the invitation to the whole family.”

The Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Center is helping coordinate the trip for the family.

“This is amazing,” said Carmen Beach, Kody’s mother. “He has been asking our friends what everyone is doing for the Super Bowl. We know he will be thrilled when we tell him.”

Carmen said her son loves watching sports of all kinds, and while he is an Eagles fan, he will be cheering for the Broncos on Super Sunday.

“It will be our first time in New York. His father and I are big New York Giants fans so we are looking forward to visiting the stadium in person,” Carmen added.

The Gene Upshaw Memorial Fund Super Bowl raffle raised $30,000 for traumatic brain injury research and programs and services for cancer patients and families at the Gene Upshaw Memorial Tahoe Forest Cancer Center.

The prize, generously donated by the National Football League, supports the Gene Upshaw Memorial Fund administered by the Tahoe Forest Health System Foundation. The Gene Upshaw Memorial Fund has raised nearly $670,000 since 2009.

“The Kasdens’ generosity of spirit is wonderful to witness,” said Terri Upshaw. “I’m proud that Gene’s legacy is living on and continuing to touch people’s lives in meaningful ways.”

Gene Upshaw served as executive director of the National Football League Players Association from June 1983 to August 2008, following a 16-year career as a member of the Oakland Raiders.

A perennial All-Pro offensive guard, Upshaw was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987, his first year of eligibility. He played in 217 league games and appeared in six Pro Bowls. Upshaw died in August 2008 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 63 at Tahoe Forest Hospital.

Each year the Gene Upshaw Memorial Golf Classic, July 13-14, 2014, raises money for the above mentioned causes. More than 25 NFL players, other sports celebrities, corporate sponsors, and the general public pay tribute to the former Raider at the Golf Club at Gray’s Crossing in Truckee.

Learn more about the Gene Upshaw Memorial Tahoe Forest Cancer Center at http://tahoecancercenter.com.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jan 29, 2014 06:33PM Published Jan 31, 2014 09:24AM Copyright 2014 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.