Bo Pelini helped establish a Nebraska chapter of Uplifting Athletes and supported it financially.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Uplifting Athletes One of 2012's Top Stories

By NU Athletic Communications

Randy York's N-Sider

The Year 2012 was a pivotal one for Nebraska Athletics. Jordan Burroughs won an Olympic gold medal in wrestling, and Jordan Larson won a silver in volleyball. Chad Wright won the NCAA discus title, and Rex Burkhead, Sean Fisher and Gina Mancuso helped Nebraska meet and exceed the unprecedented 300 Academic All-American milestone. The Husker women gymnastics and indoor track and field teams won Big Ten Conference championships in 2012.

Early Monday evening, Bo Pelini and Burkhead were among those who spoke at a Nebraska pep rally on the eve of the Huskers' Tuesday Capital One Bowl date against Georgia. Nebraska's fifth-year head coach and the 2012 captain of the Allstate Good Works team featured on national television earlier this month thanked the fans and talked about the bowl game, but they should have taken a bow for playing pivotal roles in another historic achievement in 2012 -- the creation of a Nebraska chapter of Uplifting Athletes.

That group and the power of Nebraska teamwork has helped a worthy cause reach an aggressive first phase goal of raising nearly $300,000 in less than six months for the fight against pediatric brain cancer.

Burkhead the Catalyst for Nebraska Chapter

The catalyst, of course, was the relationship between Burkhead and 7-year-old Jack Hoffman. Last July, Burkhead and 46 of his Husker teammates started their own chapter of Uplifting Athletes and launched a campaign to help the cause. In September, an anonymous Nebraska-based company made a pledge of up to $100,000 to the Nebraska chapter with a dollar-for-dollar match stipulation.

Prior to the formation of the Nebraska chapter, the Hoffman family worked separately with University of Nebraska officials and CureSearch, a national pediatric cancer foundation dedicated to research funding. The Hoffman family worked with Huskers Sports Network radio affiliates, among others, to sell Team Jack T-Shirts. More than 15,000 shirts have been sold, and the result has been nearly $180,000 raised for the Team Jack Legacy Fund through CureSearch.

"We still can't quite fathom all the support that this program has raised statewide," said Andy Hoffman, Jack's father. "The overwhelming support this project received speaks volumes about the kindness of Nebraskans. They're the best fans in college football, and we're equally appreciative of all the gracious businesses and service-minded volunteers who have supported the cause."

Bo Pelini Brings Power to the Match Fund

The man who gave his wholesale support to launch the Nebraska chapter is the same man who supplied the funds to help the chapter reach the $100,000 dollar-for-dollar match. Through his foundation, Bo Pelini made it all possible.

"Coach Pelini's involvement with the Nebraska chapter is awesome on so many levels," said Scott Shirley, the executive director for Uplifting Athletes nationwide. "Not only does Bo's contribution help with research, but it sends a strong message to his players that he's 100 percent behind what they're doing."

Keith Zimmer, Nebraska's associate athletic director who oversees the NU chapter of Uplifting Athletes, said Pelini "has been all in with Uplifting Athletes and supporting the mission and goals of his football team off the field. His generous donation has helped the cause for pediatric brain cancer research, and he's been willing to provide special experiences that meet all the compliance requirements to make this chapter as successful as possible."

Even though there are technical differences between the Team Jack Legacy Fund through CureSearch and Uplifting Athletes, the goal is always the same -- raise as much money for pediatric brain research as possible. With the teamwork of all parties involved, the Nebraska contribution to pediatric brain cancer  is now at $280,000 ... and counting.

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