Luke Kellerman: The Man Who Inspired the Denver Broncos Campaign and Raised Awareness of Colorectal Cancer | by
The image of a bronco is strong and resolute. It’s befitting of the #FightLikeABronco campaign that was launched by the Denver Broncos in 2016 to help raise cancer awareness.
The mantra is inspiring, as is the man who was the driving force behind the campaign: Luke Kellerman, former assistant turf manager of the Broncos, who after his diagnosis of stage IV colorectal cancer in 2015, wanted to help others.
“After he was diagnosed — and despite being very sick — his number one goal was to raise awareness about cancer,” says Katie Kellerman, his wife. “He wanted people to know about all cancers … and that colon cancer is the number two cancer killer — one that doesn’t get talked about too often.”
Luke was just 32 years old when he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. He passed away in October 2017 at age 34.
“I’m doing all I can to continue his mission,” says Katie, who fights back tears of both loss and pride as she talks about his life and work with the Broncos on this campaign. The young couple was married nine years.
After high school, inspired by his love for sports, Luke began by taking care of baseball fields for a local parks and recreation department. The Centennial, Colorado native, soon after, got his foot in the door with the Denver Broncos in a seasonal position working at the Dove Valley practice facility.
“Football was his number one passion,” Katie says. “As a kid, he dreamt of working for the Broncos. He didn’t know how, but it’s pretty amazing that he actually got to do it.”
Luke loved it so much, Katie explains, he got his turf management degree from Pennsylvania State’s online program and rose up through the ranks to care for the grass at the Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
In his spare time, Luke spent a lot of time outdoors: whether he and Katie were camping in the mountains, spending time at the zoo, or he was with his buddies on their annual Camptoberfest.
Then when Luke was in his early 30s, things took a turn. He developed severe back pain that grew into an onslaught of health and gastrointestinal problems over the next several months. After being referred to a urologist who ordered a CT scan, which revealed a large mass in his colon, and subsequent medical tests, Luke was delivered dreadful news: he had stage IV colon cancer. To the dismay of many, Luke’s cancer had spread to his lymph nodes and liver before he was diagnosed, and progressed despite radiation, surgery and chemotherapy.
Just months after his diagnosis, while he was battling cancer, Luke submitted a proposal to the Broncos asking them to broaden its cancer awareness program — and a new campaign was born.
In the two years the campaign has been in place, the Broncos have donated $120,000 to cancer research and screenings: $80,000 for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and pediatric research, and another $40,000 to the American Cancer Society (ACS) for colorectal cancer screenings, says Liz Mannis, senior manager of community development with the Broncos. Thanks to Luke’s efforts and advocacy, more than 12,000 people have already undergone colorectal cancer screening.
An additional 12,000 screening opportunities are anticipated in 2018, says Jane Harris with ACS. In March, Katie worked with the Broncos and ACS to assemble “Kellerman Kits” (FIT kits, also known as Fecal Immunochemical Tests) — colon cancer screening, mail-in kits that test for hidden blood in stool, which can be an early sign of cancer. The kits and colonoscopy screenings will be available for free to eligible patients through Salud Family Health Centers (a clinic with 13 locations throughout Colorado).
“Our goal is to impact as many lives as we can,” Mannis says. “Luke’s legacy will live on.”
Did you know?
This year in Colorado an estimated 1,850 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and an estimated 660 will die from the disease. Source: American Cancer Society
Tags: colon screening
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