Chedlocks: Fighting cancer from the heart


Thomas Gryniewicz, creator of Chedlocks gets some MNF love! Photo Courtesy of

From out of the ashes of pain and hurt rise the dreams of those who refuse to give up. And through those dreams many others are touched with compassion and it is through those actions that the dream never dies.

So often we get carried away with the football season, statistics, and the road to glory and victory that we tend to lose sight of the things around us.

Chedlocks are more than a hat; they are a story of strength, determination, and honoring the memory of a wife and mother.

I raise my hand as a guilty party to this blindness.

However, it took a chance meeting with one man that made me realize how much more there is to football, how much more there is than being a fan with a purpose.

Let me first go back before the season started so you can understand the importance of this chance meeting.

I have a friend, Tami, who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Never before in my life had something so devastating touched so close to me.

I watched as she fought through treatments and battled daily. She became an inspiration not just for her daily battle but how she approached life. I loved the pink wig she bought and wore up to a Packers game this season.

It was because of this that I guess I began to notice what was taking place around me with a little more interest.

Fast forward to the Packers-Patriots game where I was taking pictures around Lambeau and I had a chance meeting with Thomas Gryniewicz.

Tom was on the back of a pedicab sporting these awesome dreadlocks. I took his picture and we chatted and that is when he told me his story and his plan, a plan that came from the ashes of life itself with the sole purpose to bring joy and happiness to others who are fighting cancer and awareness to those whose eyes have not been touched by such sadness.

About two years ago, Tom’s ex-wife passed away from breast cancer, leaving him to raise two children, Micah and Isaiah. It was her illness that started him down the road to develop Chedlocks as a way to help deal with her sickness and eventually help others fighting cancer as well.

During her battle with cancer and when it was evident that she was not going to get better, Tom explained that, “I reached out to the Packers through a letter and explained my situation and the sad reality my kids were going through.”

It was from this letter that a Packers representative contacted him and happily sent a care package to the kids to take their minds off of the sadness they were experiencing.

Then, while watching a preseason game, Tom mentioned to his daughter, Micah, “look at Eddie Lacy‘s hairstyle. Wouldn’t it be cool if they had Packer hats with dreadlocks like his?”

This got Tom thinking about what he could do to incorporate the two into a true Packers product and then take it to the cheese level and the idea of Chedlocks was born!

Chedlocks meets dreadlocks at a charity event. Photo courtesy of

As all this was playing out, there was one driving force that continued to propel him forward and that was the recollection the kids had of their Mom losing her hair during chemotherapy.

Fine tuning his original design he was confident in a product that represented the original desire behind the dream.

Once the initial product came out of development, Tom and his children took it to the next level and thought what a great idea it would be to be able to try to give the Chedlocks to kids and adults going through chemo.

The Chedlocks team was able to accomplish this goal when they were able to donate a hat to a child battling cancer. The mother of the child was overwhelmingly supportive and appreciative of the gesture. She expressed how the Chedlocks brought a smile to her son’s face

As the idea grew, a children’s cancer hospital in Seattle contacted Tom and told him what a wonderful idea his product was. The hospital offered to help carry on the project and asked for as many hats as possible to hand out to their patients.

This has led Tom to work on establishing corporate sponsorship of the product to be able to provide it on a larger scale.

So as word and pictures of Chedlocks spread from around Lambeau Field to national television exposure during the Atlanta Falcons game, I asked Tom what the response from the Packers has been if any.

Tom told me that he has had some initial contact with the Packers about having the item in their Pro Shop but at this time it is way too early to tell what may or may not happen.

I asked Tom what if any response there has been from the players and he told me that had the opportunity to attend a luncheon with Tramon Williams (who also sports dreadlocks) and asked to have a picture taken of the two of them together with Tom wearing his Chedlocks. Tom said that Tramon was “very enthusiastic and supportive” of the product.

Thomas Gryniewicz sporting Chedlocks at Lambeau field before the Atlanta game. Photo Courtesy of

Fan reaction (which I can attest to firsthand) has been phenomenal. After having his picture flashed across the United States on Monday Night Football, his phone and Facebook page lit up like the Lambeau Field Christmas tree.

Walking around the stadium with Tom prior to the game against Atlanta, he was constantly stopped for pictures, high-fived and shouted to.

The response was heartfelt and thunderous.

Tom’s next move is to continue to grow the product.  Find corporate sponsorship to support the dream or even have someone (person or corporation) step in and purchase some hats and donate them to cancer hospitals for the patients.

He has also established a Facebook page under the name Chedlocks and the website, with the hopes of expanding.

Tom has remarried and with the unyielding support of Danielle and the children, the journey is just beginning and as many people have told him, it is ideas like his that is the basis on which America is built.

Chedlocks are more than a hat; they are a story of strength, determination, and honoring the memory of a wife and mother.

They are a means to take away the pain and hurt felt by those battling cancer.

For from the ashes rose the phoenix, reborn and ready to take flight.

In this case, that phoenix is sporting Chedlocks.