By NU Athletic Communications
Randy York's N-Sider
Official Blog of the Huskers
Last Friday night in Sarasota, Fla., a head football coach and a pediatric brain cancer patient who considers that coach a close friend, were center stage in front of nearly 900 people paying $1,000 a plate at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Bo Pelini, Nebraska’s 7th-year head football coach, and Jack Hoffman, his 8-year-old sidekick who battles brain cancer every day, agreed to be interviewed as part of the featured entertainment at the ninth annual Dick Vitale Gala.
The celebrity conversation was a gripping commentary that reminded every patron in the room how Jack’s record 69-yard touchdown run in Nebraska’s 2013 spring game helped elevate awareness for the disease and inspire fundraising to support research that will help fight the disease.
Pelini has been a national leader in the fight against pediatric brain cancer over the past several years. He has devoted numerous hours of his personal time, working hand-in-hand with the Hoffman family and others. Pelini also has nurtured an environment in his football program that was instrumental in Nebraska launching its own chapter of Uplifting Athletes that targets pediatric brain cancer research. Husker wide receiver Sam Burtch, NU’s president of Uplifting Athletes, is hopeful that his teammates can register 1,000 runners for the Nebraska Football Uplifting Athletes Road Race in partnership with the Lincoln Track Club on July 20. The event, which drew 700 runners and raised $15,000 for pediatric brain cancer research in 2013, includes a fun run and a 5K competitive race.
Uplifting Athletes Champions winner Rex Burkhead and Jack visit White House.
Rich Fisher, Burtch’s position coach, was in Florida recruiting last week and attended the Dick Vitale Gala, along with Pelini, Jack, and his dad, Andy Hoffman. Jimbo Fisher, head coach for defending national football champion Florida State, was among the guests that included Alabama’s Nick Saban and two Big Ten Conference basketball coaches – Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Indiana’s Tom Crean. Vitale expects the gala to raise $2 million to support pediatric brain cancer research, increasing the event’s overall contributions to more than $12 million. This year’s event sold out and forced gala organizers to decline celebrities who wanted to buy tickets.
Andy Hoffman salutes Pelini for his role in fighting pediatric brain cancer. “When Coach Bo and his wife Mary Pat agreed to serve as honorary co-chairs for our first Team Jack Gala two months ago (in Lincoln), it meant so much to our family,” Andy said. “Coach Bo represents everything that’s good in college football. He has a deep commitment to serve others and does an amazing job of using his platform to impact society in a big and very positive way. Our family is so thankful to be a recipient of his graciousness.”
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