As an 18-year-old baseball player at The University of North Carolina, Chase Jones experienced a sharp headache unlike any pain he'd known before.
He was soon diagnosed with stage IV pineal region germinoma, a type of tumor that starts in the center of the brain. It had spread to his spine.
There were few treatment options close to home. So, after a series of surgeries and bouts of chemotherapy in North Carolina, Jones came to the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center. Despite being far from friends and family, he felt right at home.
Upon learning of his diagnosis, the rest of the UNC baseball team shaved their heads in support.
The gesture had a huge impact on Jones, leading him to start the Vs. Cancer Foundation, an organization that empowers sports teams, from little league to the pros, to raise awareness and money in hopes of ending childhood cancer.
Since 2013, Vs. Cancer has raised more than $2 million, part of which has benefited research and patient care initiatives at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital.
Through Vs. Cancer, teams are encouraged to host creative fundraising events. Examples include head-shaving campaigns, 100-inning games, relay races or kickball games, or just adding a yellow ribbon to jerseys. Proceeds from these events allow teams to then make a donation.
"We’ve given athletes of every age from every sport the platform to make a difference," Jones says. "As a cancer survivor, I couldn't be more excited about that."
Today Jones is 27, cancer-free and overjoyed at his foundation’s ability to connect athletes with children fighting cancer.
"I don't know why I survived cancer. I don't know why I defied the odds. But because of that, I’ll be doing this as long as there are kids battling cancer," he says.