CSU, Schmidt Team Racing partner to fight cancer

Mack Beaulieu

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Nan Stuart as Nancy Stewart on multiple occasions. The article has since been updated.

Colorado State University’s Flint Animal Cancer Center is partnering for the second time with driver Jay Howard and the Sam Schmidt Motorsports this May in the Indianapolis 500. Schmidt will be displaying a logo for Colorado State’s OneCure program. Howard and Sam Schmidt made a trip to Fort Collins Wednesday afternoon, to tour the facilities at CSU’s Flint Animal Cancer Center and talk about the roots of their partnership.

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Two men, one woman and a dog pose for photo
Nan Stuart (left), Kelsey (dog), Sam Schmidt (middle) and Jay Howard (right) pose for a photo in the Flint Animal Cancer Center. (Mack Beaulieu | Collegian)

The OneCure program is a comparative oncology program that seeks to translate effective cancer treatments from humans to dogs and vice versa. Dogs and humans have similar DNA and get some of the same cancers, so in some cases treatments can translate between man and his best friend. The love of dogs translated as well, from person to person, to make it possible for a British man to represent a research program in Fort Collins.

It started with Nan Stuart pursuing Tony Stewart for a chance to advertise her own animal rescue non-profit, Code 3 Associates, on Tony Stewart’s car.

“I just wanted a sticker where it wouldn’t get repeatedly hit,” Stuart said. “We ended up getting a lot bigger than that.”

Stuart saw something in Tony Stewart the first time she met him.

“When I first met him he was talking to us and then his gaze changed,” Stuart said. “I realized he was looking at the only dog in site and I said, ‘I like this guy.’”

Stewart took on Nan Stuart’s cause through the Tony Stewart Foundation.

“We were working with the Tony Stewart foundation, that’s how we met Nan,” Howard said. “We were all talking about last year’s Indianapolis 500 and how this OneCure program would be a perfect fit.”

A self-described animal lover, Howard loves the work the hospital is doing, both for pets and people.

“I grew up with dogs and one of them died from cancer,” Howard said. “If there was a program back home like this, maybe we could’ve beat it.”

Joe Schmidt, a client of Flint Animal Cancer Center with no relation to Sam, lost his dog, Riley, to bone cancer last year. A vet himself, Joe knew it wasn’t likely Riley was going to pull through, but Riley lasted almost 13 additional months.

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“We didn’t really anticipate that we were going to win the game,” Joe Schmidt said. “But if we got information that helps maybe pets, maybe humans, plus increasing his quality of life, then that’s the goal.”

Joe Schmidt can sleep well knowing he and Riley have provided the data that could help save lives one day. Last year, Howard got to meet a young girl named Emily Brown who had bone cancer and survived thanks to opting for a solution based on a clinical trial done at the Flint Animal Cancer Center.

“Emily is amazing,” Howard said. “If it wasn’t for the great people here, she wouldn’t be with us today.”

Sam Schmidt grew up with dogs and has lived with his wife, Sheila, a dog trainer, for many years. But the search for a cure hits on a more human note with the man who writes the checks and therefore ultimately makes this partnership possible.

“Two years ago I went through breast cancer with my Mom and then two months ago with colon cancer,” Schmidt said. “I think she came out of both those situations amazingly well and amazingly quickly because of early detection with methods that have been developed in the last five to ten years…So this is all intertwined, it means a lot when it touches your life that way.”

The Indianapolis 500 will take place May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. If you’d like to donate or learn more about OneCure, click on the link.

Collegian reporter Mack Beaulieu can be reached on at sports@collegian.com or on twitter @Macknz_James