Photo by Stephanie Carpenter/Nebraska Communications

Road Race A Chance For Players To Give Back

By Brian Rosenthal

Growing up near Los Angeles, Tristan Gebbia took advantage of multiple opportunities to attend basketball camps, like the Nick Young Camp and the NBA Stars Camp. He specifically remembers being “that kid” always trying to rub elbows with and talk to the name players, ones who are even bigger names today.

Now, only one year into his Nebraska football career, Gebbia is experiencing a role reversal, and he couldn’t be happier.

The redshirted freshman quarterback is president of the Nebraska Football Road Race student organization, so he’ll be eager to interact with kids attending Sunday’s sixth annual event, outside Memorial Stadium, that serves as a fundraiser for pediatric brain cancer.

“It’s important for all of us to be around that, because it inspires kids,” Gebbia said. “That can definitely help them on their path in life, and they can show they don’t resort to bad things, and they do play high school sports, which is important to stay out of dangerous things in their lives.”

The 1-Mile Fun Run begins at 8 a.m. and the 5K will begin immediately afterward, with the start and finish on Stadium Drive just outside of the West Stadium entrance. Online registration is open through Tuesday at www.huskers.com/roadrace. Late registration is available for an increased fee at the Lincoln Running Company, Wednesday through Saturday, and on-site Sunday at Memorial Stadium.

The first 1,000 people to register online will receive an exclusive invitation to a closed Nebraska football practice or scrimmage during fall camp.

All Nebraska football players will participate in Sunday’s event, so it’s a perfect opportunity for fans to interact with players, something Gebbia is more than willing to do.

“Everybody loves to be around the fans, because without the fans, we wouldn’t have anyone to fill the seats,” Gebbia said. “We’re a byproduct of fans' support, and I think it’s important to show the love back to them.”

All proceeds will benefit pediatric brain cancer research at the UNMC Buffett Cancer Center. Gebbia said Sunday's goal is to surpass last year’s mark of $27,000. Over the first five years, the road race has raised more than $100,000.

Fans can participate by running, donating on the race website or simply volunteering their time at the event.

Melissa Ostrander and her son, Seth, from rural Hastings, have attended the last four road races. They learned of the event through other families who have had a child with pediatric brain cancer.

Seth received his diagnosis at age 13. The Ostranders made weekly trips to Omaha for chemotherapy treatments for 15 months, and now visit twice a year for MRIs and 2-3 other times to see a neuro ophthalmologist, as a tumor surrounds Seth's optic nerves and affects vision in his right eye.

Now 19, Seth will begin college this fall at Wayne State University.

“It’s pretty amazing the University would come along and support a cause like this, and in so many different ways, just the time they spend supporting this cause and how much of an impact it has made," Melissa Ostrander said. "The amount of money they have raised so far is phenomenal. It’s great to see the community come out and run to support pediatric brain cancer.”

Gebbia has met pediatric brain cancer patients through team hospital visits but doesn’t personally know anyone affected. However, he lost a grandmother to breast cancer, and his other grandmother, Gloria Gebbia, is president of Associates for Breast and Prostate Cancer in Los Angeles. She helps organize 3-4 major events and galas each year at the Beverly Hills Hilton to raise money and awareness for cancer.

“It’s kind of in my blood,” Trista Gebbia said, “to be involved in events like this.”

Gebbia replaces linebacker Chris Weber, who led the event for two years. Bo Kitrell and Jacob Weinmaster are his top assistants in helping organize Sunday’s event.

“They thought I would be a very good choice,” Gebbia said of teammates who voted him into this position. "I was very honored to be chosen for that. It’s something that’s been really important to me over the last year.”

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

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