Chance Chrisman, who participated in the Husker Heroes event on Sunday for the first time, interacts with one of the 300 individuals in attendance.
Photo by Erica Nett

NU Life Skills Event Provides Chance for Huskers to be Heroes

By Erica Nett

Smiles on smiles on smiles. They were a common sight at Memorial Stadium on the evening of Sept. 10, but it had nothing to do with a football game. 

Instead, it was due to the Seventh Annual Husker Heroes Event, which provided more than 300 special needs individuals the opportunity to interact with current Huskers. Participants were able to take photos with their favorite athletes and members of the spirit squad, get autographs and play games for over an hour. 

Mari Butler, a freshman on the rifle team, was one of the Huskers that participated in the event for the first time.

"Husker Heroes was a great event,” Butler said. "The athletes all really get involved with the kids and it's a fun time for everyone. My favorite part was just all the smiling kids. It's great that we can all come out here for an hour and play different games with all these awesome kids and make their nights. It's definitely just as much fun for us as it is for them."

The night was sponsored by the NU Athletics Department and Organizations Networking for Everyone with Special Needs (including the Arc of Lincoln, the Autism Center of Nebraska/ACN Connections, the Autism Family Network, the Autism Society of Nebraska, Down Syndrome Advocates in Action Nebraska, Down Syndrome Association for Families, Dreams Unlimited, Educational Service Unit #6, Nebraska Spina Bifida, United Cerebral Palsy of Nebraska, Windsong Equitherapy, and 10/11 Cares).

Senior Associate Athletic Director for Life Skills & N Club Keith Zimmer, Director of Education & Engagement Stacey Burling and the Life Skills Department staff were responsible for the evening’s activities and organization.

"We use Husker Heroes as an opportunity to introduce community service to the newest group of Nebraska student-athletes," Burling said. "They witness early on how supportive their fans are, regardless of their sport, or wins and losses. More importantly though, continuing this event allows us to reach over 1,000 people who get to enjoy a special night at Memorial Stadium. It’s a win-win for Nebraska Athletics and the non-profit organizations who do incredible work positively impacting the people their causes aim to help." 

Chance Chrisman is a junior on the track and field team who also participated in the event for the first time after transferring to Nebraska. 

"I think everyone should help out with an event like this at least once in their life," Chrisman said. "It made my heart very happy seeing all of their smiling faces."

Fellow teammate Nicholas Agbede said the event exceeded his expectations and was "one to remember."

"To see the participants work hard and smile while doing it [was my favorite part]," Agbede said. "This event brought genuine happiness and fun to the community. Thus far...this event has been my favorite as a student-athlete."

Although the event is required for first-year and transfer student-athletes as part of a required Life Skills class, a number of returning Huskers also volunteered at the event by choice, including senior softball player Caitlin Bartsch

"Husker Heroes is one of my favorite events during the year because the smallest interaction or activity that a kid does can put the biggest smile on their face," Bartsch said.

Zimmer also noted the importance of the event, both for the student-athletes and the participants.

“Husker Heroes is a mutually beneficial event providing a memorable evening for all of our special guests, yet also sets the tone regarding the importance of service and leadership for our student-athletes,” Zimmer said.

 Chrisman agreed that the night was impactful for him as well.

 "It was an experience that I will never forget," he said. "I'm nowhere close to being a hero. All of those kids are my heroes."

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