Community & Society
In the National Football League, offensive linemen are usually the tallest, heaviest players on the field. Their duty is to protect their quarterback from being tackled before he has a chance to throw the ball.
Zane Beadles has been a formidable force on the offensive line since his high school and college days, and today as an offensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers the former Denver Bronco is a fierce competitor, using every ounce of power in his 6-foot 4-inch tall, 304-pound body to keep the opposing team from advancing on the field.
Off the gridiron, this Wyoming native who grew up in Utah is a gentle giant: a loving husband, model citizen and the founder of a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing as much joy as possible to young people going through life-changing medical experiences.
Through its Greatest Gifts program, the Denver-based Zane Beadles Parade Foundation offers such pleasant diversions as surfing lessons, tickets to sporting events, pancake breakfasts and birthday parties.
Immune-compromised youngsters who are staying at Brent’s Place in Aurora can shoot hoops, hit tennis balls and play other games on a sports court funded by the foundation. They’re also treated to cupcakes furnished by organization board member Keegan Gerhard, the owner and “dessert doctor” at D Bar Denver, and pancake breakfasts donated by Snooze, An A.M. Eatery.
Gerhard and his wife, pastry chef Lisa Bailey, flew to Florida to create the cake served when Beadles and his wife, Meredith, a speech therapist at a skilled nursing facility, were married last March. Not surprisingly, the two restaurants Beadles favors on his visits to Denver are D Bar, where he loves the Cake and Shake dessert, and Snooze, where pancakes are a favorite choice.
Providing respite for patients from often grueling medical routines, says Julie Gart, the foundation’s executive director and lone employee, “Has proven to significantly improve their quality of life and overall recovery.”
“I’m huge on being able to enjoy life,” Beadles said on a recent visit to Denver. “Kids going through treatment often can’t, so we give them the opportunity to be kids again. When I was playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars I met a critically ill teenager who said he hadn’t been able to be active in eight months and wasn’t sure he’d ever be active again. His dream was to go surfing, so we arranged lessons for him.”
If a child isn’t able to go out, Beadles added, “We’ll do something in the hospital rec room, maybe crafts and cupcakes; anything that’ll make them smile. And for families to see smiles on their kids’ faces … well, it’s pretty special.”
Birthday parties for brothers and sisters of the ill children are equally important. “When a child is ill, so much of the attention is focused on him or her,” Beadles notes, “and siblings can feel left out. It’s so important to make them feel like they haven’t been forgotten.”
The 30-year-old’s devotion to critically ill children dates back to his college years, when he and fellow members of the University of Utah Utes football team took Ryker, a 7-year-old with brain cancer who dreamed of growing up to become a football player, under its wing. Ryker’s death, and Beadles’ family history of cancer, so affected him that he vowed to do all he could to ease the burden a serious illness brings.
A mechanical engineering major in college and a son of parents who instilled a strong sense of how important it is to give back, Beadles says he initially regarded football as a nothing more than a means for achieving a college education. “I started playing baseball when I was 4 and basketball when I was 5, but by fifth grade all my friends were wearing football jerseys and I thought that was pretty cool, so I started to play. But it wasn’t until my junior year in college that I knew I wanted to have a career in the NFL.”
He was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2010, where his four seasons included playing in Super Bowl 48. He spent two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars before signing with the 49ers in 2016.
During his time with the Broncos his agent introduced him to Brent’s Place. “Julie (Gart) was working there and we did an event with her and interacted with the kids.” The time he spent at Brent’s Place inspired him to “take things one step farther” and start the foundation and hire Julie Gart to be the executive director.
“She’s the best when it comes to building relationships and moving things along. The whole thing has been a learning experience (for me) … and I probably didn’t realize what I was getting into.”
Initially the bulk of the foundation’s work was with Brent’s Place and while they remain a key element, the organization has expanded its reach to cities that include Jacksonville, Fla., Salt Lake City and the San Francisco Bay area. A goal is to build facilities like Brent’s Place in “Every major city that has a children’s hospital.”
Beadles admits that starting the foundation “Probably involved more work than I thought it would be, but it’s been worth it. If I’m going to be involved with something, I want to do it the right way and that means being directly involved as much as I can.”
Mission: Founded in 2013, the Zane Beadles Parade Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supporting the journey of young people going through life-changing medical experiences.
A long-term goal is to build more facilities like Brent’s Place, which is the state’s only Children’s Hospital Colorado-approved safe-clean housing facility for immune-compromised patients and their families.
Contact Information: zanesparade.org
Main Programs: The Greatest Gifts Program offers adventures and opportunities to patients and their families who are clients at Brent’s Place in Aurora, Ronald McDonald House of the Intermountain Area and other facilities in Colorado, California, Utah and Florida. In its first four years, the foundation has provided more than 3,500 Greatest Gifts, bringing a sense of normalcy and happiness to more than 6,000 families by creating fun, memorable experiences for patients during their treatments.
The organization also partners with the Gabby Krause Foundation to distribute Bags of Fun to young patients hospitalized in Denver and, soon, the San Francisco Bay Area. Foundation volunteers participate in the Cuddle Program and the Craft Program at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children and joined with the Rocky Mountain Children's Health Foundation, Kendra Scott jewelry and Microsoft to present a Holiday Extravaganza at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children. In partnership with Jazz Pharmaceuticals, the foundation sent 20 patients from the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Stanford, Calif., to see the 49ers play the New York Jets. The 2017 Parade Partners Shopping Card offered a 20 percent discount at 136 Denver-area retailers in early November; the 2018 card will go on sale in mid-summer and like its predecessors will help fund ZBPF programs.
How You Can Help: Make a monthly or one-time gift via credit card, or purchase an item, such as a ZBPF snuggle pad, that will be donated to a child in need, by visiting zanesparade.org/get-involved/give-a-gift-to-the-foundation.
Volunteers for an annual golf tournament held in Utah, and other local events, are also needed; that information will be published on the ZBPF website.
Upcoming Events and Fundraisers: Check the website for dates and locations for such events as the annual Golf Classic in Salt Lake City and a party to launch sales of the 2018 Parade Partners Shopping Card.
Joanne Davidson spent 30 years as The Denver Post’s society editor; prior to that she was San Francisco bureau chief for U.S. News & World Report magazine. She currently freelances for The Post and Colorado Expression.
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