ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (WNDU) - St. Joseph, Michigan, will be the launching point of a difficult mission that's brought together an innovation executive and a former NFL cornerback.
Charles "Peanut" Tillman, a former Chicago Bears star, is teaming up with Jacob Beckley to set sail across Lake Michigan. The two men are planning to row nonstop from St. Joseph to Chicago, which should take more than 24 hours to complete.
The duo is completing the mission, called Row4Kids, in order to raise money for pediatric cancer research.
Five-year old Alex Mandarino is one of the many children Tillman and Beckley are fighting for. Alex was diagnosed with a neuroblastoma just weeks before his third birthday.
"Just a contagious smile and a belly laugh that you couldn't help but laugh when you heard it," said Alex's dad, Tony Mandarino.
Approximately 700 children are diagnosed with a neuroblastoma each year, often before the age of 5. While pediatric cancer research is being conducted across the country, a lack of funds is halting any chance of finding a cure.
"That hit me like a ton of bricks when I heard it," Mandarino said.
Alex died in July 2013, but his legacy lives on.
"You know, you live your life thinking: 'I want my kids to far outlive what I can do,'" Mandarino said. "I could live to be 150 years old and never make the impact that Alex has. To me, as a father, there's no better reward you can get than that."
Tillman and Beckley are planning to set sail in the coming weeks, depending on the weather.
To follow along with their journey or to donate toward pediatric cancer, check out their website.