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Do you remember when young Jack Hoffman came in for the final play of the Nebraska Spring Game?
At Upper Deck we were so moved by “The Run” as it is now called in Nebraska lore that we worked with the Team Jack Foundation to create a Star Rookie card of Jack Hoffman for charitable purposes. The charity ended up generating over $50,000 from donations for these cards and it became the start of a program at Upper Deck called Heroic Inspirations.
We created trading cards and collectibles for dozens of other athletes who would never make the pros, but who had incredible stories. It has been an amazing program to help great causes and show how trading cards can help change lives.
By far though, of all the subjects we have featured, I am most frequently asked about Jack Hoffman. In particular, “How’s he doing?” So I picked up the phone and reached out to his father Andy to inquire about how his son was doing. He told me that Jack has experienced some setbacks since “The Run,” but is doing well today. Andy told me they were looking forward to a 5k Road Race Team Jack does with the University of Nebraska.
I had worked so much with them to get the card done, but I had never met them. I decided that I would head out to Lincoln for the Road Race and to see just how exactly Jack was doing.
I met the Hoffman Family Saturday night and got some good updates from them. Jack continues to battle the beast that is pediatric brain cancer. His father shared that it is a battle Jack will likely spend his life fighting.
Jack shared he is doing good though and that made me happy. I shared some cards with Jack and his sisters and it was fun to see them go through them. They were excited to pull a card of Tiger Woods.
Andy shared the race has gotten bigger and bigger every year and the entire community has adopted the cause. The Nebraska Cornhuskers football team in particular are big supporters and it showed.
Most college kids aren’t even up at 7:00 a.m. in the summer, but on this fateful Sunday morning in Lincoln, the University of Nebraska Football team were all on site in their jerseys with smiles on their faces engaging with fans.
The Hoffman family was there ready to race and I was so happy to see that Jack was well enough to make the run. As the event has grown though, so has the number of families that Team Jack has been able to help.
I talked with Brent Gehring who shared that Andy Hoffman called him after his daughter Emma was diagnosed with a brain tumor. They went from having a doctor in Omaha who had performed the surgery she would need just once and she would have a 10% chance of survival to heading out to Boston to have it done by a doctor who had done it 22 times that year and had not lost a single child. He said it was the best decision he had ever made, but without Andy Hoffman and Team Jack, it probably wouldn’t have happened. He spoke at the start of the race making the sad omission that funds raised today likely won’t cure his child, but they could help for research to cure the next kids affected.
While Jack and all these kids have hope, they are the lucky ones and there are far too many reminders of how deadly this disease is. “We’ve been to a lot of funerals,” Jack’s mother Bri shared with me. Just last week, Team Jack lost two children the charity worked with.
The race was about hope though and as heavy a topic as pediatric brain cancer is, I felt incredibly hopeful at the event. I have ran a few 5k’s, but this one is different. When you start off the team and cheerleaders send you off fired up. Every quarter mile there are groups of players cheering you on. Running through the campus of a great college town with everyone showing off their Cornhusker pride was special and to finish with a huge line of players giving you high fives is something I’ll remember for a long time. If you live in or around Lincoln, I can’t imagine not being at this event, even if you just walk the course. One runner shared, “This is like the who’s who of Lincoln out here today!”
After the event the Nebraska players stuck around to spend time with fans. Starting quarterback Adrian Martinez was great with fans of all ages.
Some alumni returned as well like the center for the Buffalo Bills; Spencer Long.
I met the Hoffman family after the race and had Jack sign a blow-up of his Star Rookie card that was the catalyst for our Heroic Inspirations program. I showed him a picture of Upper Deck’s Wall of Inspiration and shared with him stories of all the people we have helped out after his card. He seemed happy about that.
His sister Ava shared, “He’s a pretty nice big brother, most of the time.”
Jack just looked at her and smiled.
Ava has done some stories about Jack and pediatric brain cancer in school. It’s a disease that really affects the entire family and I think writing about it helps to work to work it out.
On this special Sunday in Lincoln, Nebraska, the Hoffman family stood together strong with the Nebraska football team, ready for whatever the future brings. God bless them.
For information on how you can get involved please visit the Team Jack website.
They have two great events coming up that I encourage fans in Nebraska in particular to check out:
Team Jack’s ‘An Evening with Napa Valley’ wine event on October 10, 2019 is an exquisite wine tasting featuring wines from Stag’s Leap in Napa Valley, California with heavy hors d’oeuvres. Attendees can enjoy a wonderful evening at Happy Hollow Country Club learning about the Nebraska Brain Tumor Program in Omaha and its importance.
The 7th Annual Team Jack Foundation Gala is scheduled for Saturday, February 22, 2020! The 2020 event will be held at The Cornhusker Hotel in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska with all proceeds benefiting pediatric brain cancer research. This annual inspirational evening has raised over $2.3 million for research to date.
If you’ve made it this far, I hope you can do one thing for me. At the very least, you’ve got to add one of Jack’s Star Rookie cards to your collection. You can order them through the Team Jack Website!