INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Chuck Pagano returned to the Colts Complex Thursday night, but team owner Jim Irsay's generosity stole the show.
Pagano was in town for the annual Chuckstrong Tailgate Gala at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. The fundraiser started in 2013 as part of the "Chuckstrong" donation drive when the former Colts coach was diagnosed with leukemia.
Thursday's event raised more than $1.8 million for cancer research at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center. More than half of that record-breaking total came from Pagano's former boss, who donated $1 million to the cause.
"I'm not surprised, because I know the man that he is," said Pagano, who is now the defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears. "He has a heart of gold and I'm just so, so grateful."
Pagano said Irsay stuck with him while he was going through cancer treatments during his first season in Indianapolis.
"I know a lot of people who wouldn't have done that and he continues to do that today," Pagano said.
“Chuck and Tina will always be members of the Colts family, and our support of Chuckstrong goes way beyond football," said Colts COO Pete Ward, who announced Irsay's gift on the owner's behalf.
More than 500 invited guests attended the benefit, including coaches and front office staff from both the Colts and Chicago Bears.
More than $7.3 million has been raised as part of the Chuckstrong campaign since its inception.