One simple act of kindness in September 2011 has blossomed into a passionate movement to raise awareness and funds regarding pediatric brain cancer and the Nebraska Football team has been directly involved from the onset. The Hoffman family from Atkinson, Nebraska was able to meet Rex Burkhead in September 2011 receiving a VIP tour of Memorial Stadium and the chance to have lunch at the Lewis Training Table. Rex and pediatric brain cancer patient Jack Hoffman instantly connected and have formed a close mentoring relationship which is still very active today, despite Burkhead transitioning to the NFL as a rookie with the Cincinnati Bengals.
For his mentoring efforts and the awareness he brought to a rare disease, Uplifting Athletes awarded Rex with the National Rare Disease Champion honor. Burkhead and teammates proudly wear “Team Jack” bracelets on the field often drawing national recognition and awareness about pediatric brain cancer. As the relationship evolved, awareness against the horrific disease continued to reach a national stage. The now famous 69 yard touchdown run by Jack in the Nebraska Red/White Scrimmage this past April has been seen by millions recently winning an ESPY for the Best Moment in all of sports this past year. The Hoffman family and Rex were able to meet President Barack Obama at the White House this past spring continuing to escalate the national exposure of pediatric brain cancer and the desire to raise monies to further research.
On July 21st, the Husker Football team and the Lincoln Track Club were proud to partner for the 1st annual Uplifting Athletes Road Race. Nearly 700 runners total participated in either a 1 mile fun run or 5K competitive run starting on Stadium Drive just outside of Memorial Stadium raising almost $15,000. Approximately 100 current Huskers under the leadership of current Uplifting Athletes President Sam Burtch and past Uplifting Athletes President CJ Zimmerer volunteered throughout the event. Players helped with event-set-up, served as course directional volunteers, provided encouragement and support and interacted with all runners, family and friends. Members of the Husker men’s and women’s cross country teams also volunteered for the event staffing the water station.
Prior to each race, families directly impacted by pediatric brain cancer shared thoughts and thanked participants for running for a cure. Maddie Hellwig and Jack Hoffman eagerly served as celebrity starters for each race. Megan Cunningham of the Nebraska Football office sang the National Anthem. Lil’ Red and members of the Husker Cheer Squad also attended the event.
Lincoln Track Club President Glen Moss raved about the overall event and was impressed with the efforts of all volunteers; "Our Lincoln Track Club volunteers were thrilled to share their expertise and time. It was fun to see the student-athletes connecting with the runners and families providing a very special and personal road race experience that will likely never be matched."
All in all the first-ever Nebraska Football Uplifting Athletes Road Race was a monumental success and will likely continue to grow in numbers and popularity ultimately raising even more money for pediatric brain cancer research.