The Tad Agnew Foundation started simply enough: with a fundraiser.

Tad would have turned 34 years old just a month after his death. His close friends Rosie Duncan, Karen Pauly, and Olivia Schmidt decided to celebrate his Birthday. They went to a local pub they all liked, PINTS, and the Birthday Party turned into a Fundraiser which they named Tips for Tad. Whenever people ordered a drink, they could add a tip donated to Melanoma research. The event raised $ 1,000 and was the start of what is now an annual Tips for Tad event.

That was the impetus for The Tad Agnew Foundation. Tad’s parents, Chris and Margy, knew how much their son wanted to keep others from sharing his experience, and they started the foundation to raise funds for melanoma research and the search for a cure. Chris and Margy are the foundation’s official officers, and Rosie, Karen and Olivia are the Tips for Tad executive steering committee.

The Tad Agnew Foundation is an official IRS approved 501 (c)3 non- profit organization. What makes T.A.F. unique among charitable organizations is that it is entirely led by volunteers. There are no paid staff or employees. 100 percent of funds donated go directly to fund Melanoma research and clinical trials at The University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Meet the T.A.F. Founders

Chris and Margy Agnew’s melanoma story started with a phone call no parent ever wants to receive: On a Sunday night, Oct. 25, 2009, their son, Tad, called from a Des Moines emergency room and said the doctors had discovered four lesions on his brain. He had stage 4 melanoma.

Twenty-six months later—after two brain surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy treatments, and clinical trials—Tad succumbed to the disease. He was 33. During the last 14 months of Tad’s illness, when he was bedridden at home, Margy and Chris were his primary caregivers.

Having seen how devastating melanoma can be for the patient and those who love him, Chris and Margy wanted to give back and leave a legacy in Tad’s honor. Tad cared about melanoma awareness and funding further research to find a cure. As a result, his parents established The Tad Agnew Foundation.

Chris and Margy Agnew, of Bettendorf, Iowa, were high school sweethearts and graduated from Iowa State University. They married in 1971 and have three children: Amy, Jenny and Tad. Amy lives in Davenport, Iowa, and is married to Henry Cavazos. Their three children are Olivia, Taylor and Christopher. Jenny lives in Pella, Iowa, and is married to Scott Sorheim. Their children are Riley, Kelby, Brooklyn and Whitley.

Meet the T.A.F. Executive Committee


Rosie Duncan

Rosie is a registered nurse at the neonatal department of University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. Olivia introduced Rosie and Tad, and they quickly formed a friendship that was more like family. Rosie and her husband Shawn have two children, Elle and Brooks.


Karen Pauly

Karen is a special education teacher from DeWitt, Iowa. She and Tad met in high school and crossed paths again in college, when they became roommates. Tad was a groomsman in her wedding, and Karen calls her friend smart, funny and loyal. Karen and her husband, Pat, have three children, Lily, Jack and Charlotte.


Olivia Schmidt

Olivia is a bootcamp director at CrossFit Bettendorf. She met Tad in middle school, and the two reconnected after college and remained close friends. She and her husband, Adam, have two daughters: Ashlyn and Hanley.

Meet Tad

Christopher Tad Agnew, always known as “Tad,” loved life and lived his dreams. As a boy, Tad never heard a dare he didn’t accept. He was fond of jumping off high places, climbing trees, running wherever he went and going on adventures. Tad played a variety of sports with his friends. He was never the star, but he just loved being a part of the team.

Tad graduated from Bettendorf High School in 1996. He attended Iowa State University and Western Illinois University. With two days notice, Tad picked up and moved to California to pursue his dream of working in the film industry.

He excelled as a first assistant director of commercials, music videos and independent films; he ran a set on time and on budget and juggled diverse personalities with ease. He was able to travel around the world on a variety of projects and visited such far-flung places as Key West, Mexico, New York, Prague, Costa Rica, Alaska and Turkey. Tad never met a stranger and never visited a new place without making a lasting impression and leaving lifelong friends behind. In 2008, he returned to Iowa and pursued a new career as a paramedic at the University of Iowa.

Tad trailed laughter in his wake wherever he went. He had an abundance of charm, a quick wit and a wonderful sense of humor. He had a thirst for knowledge, a tender spirit and was always kind-hearted to others. He had a passion for everything he did and his enthusiasm was contagious.

Tad comes from a very close extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles. Whether with his family or his numerous friends, he always lit up the room and made everyone laugh and have a great time. Be it trivial pursuit, euchre, Scene It or golf, it became a cutthroat competition infused with hilarity and posturing. He loved to go fly fishing with his dad, close friends, cousins and uncles. He spent many summers perfecting his cast on the banks of the Snake River in Wyoming. He also loved to go golfing and snow skiing. In the winter you could find Tad skiing jumps and black diamonds in Steamboat Springs. He was a ferocious reader who retained every detail and became a very talented writer. He was passionate about movies and the Iowa State Cyclones and he adored his yellow lab, Sammy.

Tad’s two-year battle with Melanoma brain cancer was a testament to his courage and strength that inspired all who knew him.

Tad was a son, a brother, an uncle, a cousin and a cherished friend to all. He was the heart of his family and his radiant smile is legendary.

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