Karl takes cancer fight to next level with foundation launch

Nuggets coach focused on providing support for advocacy groups

Against the toughest opponent he ever faced, George Karl discovered teammates for life.

They included – but were certainly not limited to – doctors, nurses and fellow cancer survivors.

Nearly two years free from the cancer that ravaged his body but failed to defeat his spirit, Karl is leading a whole new battle.

The Denver Nuggets coach on Thursday announced the launch of the George Karl Foundation, a nonprofit organization created primarily to support cancer-care and advocacy programs important to Karl and his family.

“I’m very excited about the foundation,” Karl said. “Where it’s going to go and where it’s going to end up … I‘m kind of an adventurous guy. I’m just hoping to be a good teammate to so many other great partners of cancer and advocates of cancer here in the state of Colorado.”

Karl created the foundation with the help of Kim Van Deraa, whom he often refers to as his “cancer angel.” Their first fundraising partnership is with B Strong Ride, a cycling event in Boulder on Aug. 11.

B Strong Ride was founded by cancer survivor Kevin Mulshine and Dr. Roger Nichols, one of the doctors who helped save his life. Mulshine and Karl happened to meet at Denver International Airport last year.

Karl, Van Deraa and their daughter Kaci, 7, participated in the inaugural B Strong Ride last summer, with their support going above and beyond hopping on a bike; Karl also served as a speaker and sponsor.

“Coach Karl came out for a night with survivors, nurses and doctors,” Mulshine said. “I didn’t know George except for what he’s done in the NBA. The thing that amazed me was he truly was the last person to leave the campus.”

Using proceeds raised from B Strong Ride, the George Karl Foundation will support Boulder County Hospital’s Inpatient Cancer Center, MyLifeLine.org and the Cancer Care Initiative at Swedish Hospital.

With so much funding worldwide focused on cancer research and treatment, Karl is focusing on programs that help educate cancer patients and their families and guide them through their options during the recovery process.

“I just want to be a part of that world with whatever I can do, whatever time I can give,” he said. “And I’m going to do it with as much passion as possible because so many people have shown me that passion.”

Karl, 60, is nearly two years removed from completing chemotherapy and radiation treatment for head and neck cancer. He also beat prostate cancer in 2005.

“Two years is a good step. The stats are starting to come my way,” Karl said. “For most people, cancer is 5-6 years out before they feel like they still have to go to the doctor every three months. I’m trying to eat the right stuff and get my immune system the right way.”

In addition to cancer advocacy groups, the George Karl Foundation also will help support education, environmental and animal rights programs. The majority of funds, though, will go toward cancer-care programs.

“I want to be part of the team to make it all easier for other people,” Karl said. “The foundation was the best way, we felt, we could have done it.”

For more information on the foundation, go to www.georgekarlfoundation.org. Karl, one of just seven NBA coaches to win 1,000 regular-season games, also has launched GeorgeKarl.com, which provides information and news about his remarkable career.

Aaron Lopez
Aaron J. Lopez is the primary writer for Nuggets.com, providing behind-the-scenes content, including feature stories and video for the site. Before joining the Nuggets in 2009, he spent 15 years covering Colorado sports for the Rocky Mountain News and the Associated Press, making him one of the longest-tenured sports writers in Denver. Aaron's full bio...