Panthers Coach Rivera has another team he's cheering on... to save lives!

Rivera's connection to pancreatic cancer

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - As the Carolina Panthers begin their first full week of training camp, Head Coach Ron Rivera is also cheering on another team, Team Rivera. It's the team he's formed for Purple Stride, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network's 5K run/walk on September 10, to raise money for pancreatic cancer research and for local patients undergoing treatment.

This year Coach Ron, who lost his beloved brother Mickey to pancreatic cancer, is both "Champion of Hope" and "Honorary Starter" for the 5K.

"To take on those responsibilities means a tremendous amount to me personally," Coach Rivera said. "It's an opportunity for me to honor my late brother Mickey, who passed almost a year ago today. It's very emotional. It really is an it's an opportunity and honor and I take a lot of pride that I've been asked to do this."

It was July 28, 2015 when Coach Rivera announced on Twitter the passing of Mickey. Pancreatic cancer is a brutal disease.

According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, it is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in this country.

Mickey was one of the lucky ones, he lived almost two years after diagnosis. For most patients, living even a full year is unusual. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network estimates only 75% of those diagnosed in 2015 will live a full year from the moment the cancer is detected. That's what's so awful about pancreatic cancer, it's almost impossible to find in the early stages.

"It's one of those things you don't find until it's too late. We've got to find out ways to find it, we've got to find ways to cure it, because so many people are afflicted with it. That's the crazy part. Like that old saying, 'six degrees of separation', there is someone you know, if you look hard enough... you will find somebody you know who has been touched by pancreatic cancer. It's stunning to find out," Rivera said.

That's why the coach's other team, Team Rivera, and WBTV will be in Marshal Park Saturday, September 10, for Purple Stride. The fundraiser will raise money, much of which stays here locally to work on finding a key that will solve the mystery of this killer.

According to the coach, "A lot of [the money raised through Purple Stride], will stay here. A lot of the research, some of the trials studies, are being done right here in Charlotte at CMC. So we're talking about a community effort here."

Purple Stride takes place September 10, at Marshall Park in uptown Charlotte. Registration begins at 7 a.m. with the Opening Ceremonies at 8. WBTV has a team and we would love for you to join us - we are #WBTVandMe.

While the atmosphere can be emotional, everyone tells me it's also lots of fun. We are determined to exceed last year's goals and be instrumental in helping local medical studies find a path to a cure.

The motto of Purple Stride is to "Wage Hope." I asked Coach Rivera what those words mean to him.

"It means there's a chance. There's always a chance if we get people involved in Purple Stride. We do have to 'wage hope', but as I said I'm at some point, I want to 'wage victory' I really do! And we can only do it with support and help from the community and the medical community as well."

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