Christian celebrity Chip Gaines used his platform to inspire a few of his famous friends to support two causes advocated by Olympic hopeful Gabriele “Gabe” Grunewald who died of cancer on Tuesday.
The "Fixer Upper" star shared the emotional story of his friend Gabe who was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer 10 years ago. Despite her battle with cancer, the 32 year old pursued her dream of competing as a runner in the Olympics all the way up to her death on Tuesday in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Gaines shared his post on Instagram to honor Gabe and help “those who are fighting for just one more day.” He created the #ChipInChallenge and vowed to match donations made to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and Gabe’s foundation, Brave Like Gabe.
“ I understand that Gabe is not a patient at @StJude, but right now, she is fighting for her life,” the HGTV star, wrote on Instagram Tuesday during Gabe's final moments.
“Cancer is ugly and it is mean and it doesn’t fight fair. This has gotten extremely personal,” he continued. “Together, we’re going to fight for those who are fighting for just one more day. This is for those precious kids at St. Jude.. we are pulling for you!”
He finished the post with a note of encouragement for Gabe. “And to my beautiful friend Gabe.. we love you and we are here for you every step of the way.”
On Wednesday, Gaines once again took to social media, this time to thank all who contributed to the cause.
“You blew this thing out of the water. Because of YOU, we have raised $1.49 million for @stjude and $512,000 for the @bravelikegabe Foundation. Over TWO MILLION DOLLARS raised for the fight against cancer! This campaign is proof that when we all work together for something bigger than ourselves, anything is possible,” he wrote.
The home renovation expert then went on to thank the star-studded list of friends who shared his challenge and made monetary contributions.
“To @lauren_daigle, @drewbarrymore, @arod, @jlo, @kevinlove, @spaceykacey, @jessiejamesdecker, and @floridageorgialine—thank YOU for spreading the word and helping crush our original $230,000 goal!!” he celebrated.
Raising money in Gabe’s honor wasn’t the only kind thing Gaines did for his friend. Before she returned home where she would spend her final moments, Gaines and his wife, Joanna, surprised the athlete and her husband, Justin, by redecorating parts of their house.
“‘There are only two ways to live your life. One as though nothing is a miracle, the other as though everything is a miracle,’” Justin wrote on Instagram after seeing some of the new decorations in his home. “@gigrunewald chose the latter. We got her home to our comfy couch and she is resting peacefully and breathing easy surrounded by her best friends and family.”
The couples' friendship began in New York City when Chip was on tour promoting his book, Capital Gaines. He revealed in a personal essay published in the summer issue of Magnolia Journal that he approached Gabe and her husband who were out running through Central Park.
“I’d always been intrigued by runners, especially ones like this couple, who made it look so easy,” he wrote. “In that moment, I thought about my own list of dreams — including the part of me that’s always wondered if I could ever run 26.2 miles (aka a marathon).”
He decided to ask the couple, “How long it would take for an out-of-shape guy like me to train for a marathon.” They hit it off and that's when Gaines learned about Gabe’s condition.
He shared that meeting Gabe “felt like a call to action.” He then returned back home to Waco, Texas, and planned the Silo District Marathon, which is now in its second year. Gabe helped Gaines who was “out of shape” at the time train for that marathon.
According to the New York Times, in 2013, Gabe was named the 11th-fastest female 1,500-meter runner in U.S. history. In 2016, she raced for a place in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and made it to the finals of the U.S. trials. Before her death, she was hoping to begin training to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Although the inspiring runner has passed, her Brave Like Gabe mission lives on.