“It’s a great message to everyone, that you can be and do what you put your mind to.”
- Heidi Hamels, The Hamels Foundation (and wife of Texas Rangers pitcher Cole Hamels)
A Philadelphia musician has emerged in the midst of March Madness to ignite his spirited mission to “crush cancer” through his favorite charity, Coaches vs. Cancer, with his own “What U Do” fundraising campaign.
Joe Zahm funds and produces inspiring videos based on his memorable song about overcoming obstacles, “What U Do With What U Got,” to promote the charity, a nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). Coaches vs. Cancer works to empower college basketball coaches, their teams, and local communities to make a difference in the fight against cancer.
Though Zahm has been working with the Philadelphia arm of Coaches vs. Cancer for the past couple of years, his ultimate aim is to start a “What U Do” movement by taking it national.
One such video, a public service announcement featuring Philadelphia Big 5 Coaches Jay Wright (Villanova), Phil Martelli (St. Joseph’s), and Fran Dunphy (Temple), just made its March Madness debut during the Coaches vs. Cancer Tipoff Breakfast at the Palestra, the city's legendary college basketball shrine. The video features the “What U Do” campaign’s anthem, “What U Do With What You Got.”
Coaches vs. Cancer
Up next for Zahm is his annual “What U Do” concert fundraising event, which he’ll host April 7 at the “What U Do Bandstand” in his suburban Philadelphia home, headlined by the Joe Zahm Band, featuring acclaimed musicians Ben Arnold, Scott Bricklin, Pete Donnelly (The Figgs, NRBQ) and Matt Muir.
(Donnelly was just featured this month in an episode of HGTV’s Caribbean Life purchasing an island property in Turks & Caicos through the real estate company that Zahm owns there.)
Zahm’s work with Coaches vs. Cancer has made quite an impact in the short time they've been aligned.
“Joe Zahm has generously supported the Coaches vs. Cancer program in a variety of impactful ways,” says Lauren McShea, the American Cancer Society’s Senior Director, Distinguished Events, East Central Division. “He opened up his home and hosted two beautiful and fun events benefiting the American Cancer Society. He has generously donated $10,000 after each fundraising event, in addition to spreading awareness about our mission and the Coaches vs. Cancer program. He generously funded, produced and performed in the ‘WhatUDoWithWhatUGot’ video, perfectly highlighting the work of our coaches and community in the fight against cancer. His video debuted at our annual Philadelphia Coaches vs. Cancer Basketball Gala, inspiring the room. He also donated an amazing Turks & Caicos vacation package to our Live Auction, which was auctioned off for $10,500. We are incredibly grateful for his personal commitment and passionate dedication to his art, to the mission of the American Cancer Society, to the Coaches vs. Cancer program, and to our community.”
Zahm’s passion to “crush” cancer stems from the deaths in consecutive years of his father and sister to cancer amid some financial challenges. Inspired by life success coach Tony Robbins, Zahm wrote “What U Do With What U Got,” and through his friendships with Texas Rangers pitcher Cole Hamels and his wife Heidi, as well as former Comcast Sportsnet GM Stephanie Smith, was encouraged to connect the song to Coaches vs. Cancer.
“I know first-hand what it takes to support and watch a professional athlete, day in and day out, perfect their craft,” says Heidi Hamels, co-founder of the Hamels Foundation. “‘What U Do’ brings awareness about athletes, kids, teens, and adults who are impaired in some ways, and have not only made the best out of their situations, but prove that even with a disability, pure courage and hard work, do persevere. It’s a great message to everyone, that you can be and do what you put your mind to.”
Those connections resulted in the premiere of Zahm’s first music video for “What U Do With What You Got” at the Philadelphia Coaches vs. Cancer annual gala in April 2016, just after Villanova won its second national championship.
To date, Zahm has raised $30,000. And he’s just getting started.
“We want to crush cancer, not just beat it (to quote Coach Martelli),” says Zahm. “I'd love to see anyone adopt the song as their personal anthem when they are facing obstacles, and for it to give them a sense of hope, support and perseverance. And of course, I'd love to have it connected to NCAA basketball (March Madness!), and any other appropriate venue!”
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