Team Jack

The 2013 ESPY Awards - Backstage

“Jack Hoffman is a 7-year old boy, born and raised in Atkinson, Nebraska (pop. 1,100). He has been a Nebraska Cornhusker football fan his entire life. In 2010, for Jack’s 5th birthday, his parents took him to his first Husker game. His Mom and Dad (Bri & Andy) purchased a Rex Burkhead No. 22 jersey (a fan favorite) for him, for the game. Jack is no different than any other little boy growing up in the great state of Nebraska–he loves to play sports, ride bike, fish, hunt, and watch Cornhusker football. Jack Hoffman also has a brain tumor.

Jack has undergone surgery for the removal of the brain tumor next to his brain stem. Only a small amount of the tumor could be removed. The remaining tumor was declared inoperable. Throughout the spring, summer, and fall months of 2011, Jack battled the onset of Secondary Epilepsy–a condition brought on by the tumor. During this time, Jack suffered frequent partial seizures, sometimes up to eleven per day. The seizures persisted despite high dosages of two anti-seizure medications.

Specialists at Children’s Hospital in Boston were consulted in August 2011.A  Pediatric Neurosurgeon indicated that she felt she could safely resect the remaining tumor, and at the same time, achieve seizure relief by using intraoperative electrocorticography. Jack’s 2nd brain surgery in 5 months occurred in Boston on October 10, 2011. The surgery went well, as the doctor removed a golf ball sized tumor. Approximately 95% of the tumor was removed, with the exception of a small spot near the brain stem and cerebral artery. Another result of this surgery was the fact that Jack was made seizure free, as well.  Unfortunately, soon after surgery, the remaining “spot” grew aggressively and chemotherapy was then commenced.

Before the second life-threatening brain surgery, the family reached out to the University of Nebraska to see if Jack could meet Rex Burkhead before his surgery. As a result, the University extended an invitation to Jack and his family to make the 4 hour drive to the Stadium. During this September 2011 visit, Rex spent several hours with Jack and his family—giving them a tour, having lunch together, and just hanging out. This one experience evolved into a remarkable friendship between a 6-year old boy and a major college football player. During the 2011 campaign, Rex wore a wristband that said: “Team Jack-Pray.” Rex’s support landed him the Rare Disease Champion Award presented by Uplifting Athletes. Rex’s benevolence has helped place pediatric brain cancer on the national agenda.

Jack’s Mom and Dad are determined to help find an effective cure for pediatric brain cancer. As a result they partnered with CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, a national non-profit foundation which funds children’s cancer research. In 2012 and winter of 2013, the family was raising money for the “Team Jack Legacy Fund,” a designated CureSearch research fund they created.  The family has now taken another step, and with the help of friends and colleagues, they have formed the “Team Jack Foundation.” All money raised through the Team Jack Foundation will support pediatric brain cancer research.”¹

This ordeal has affected many in the state of Nebraska as the relationship between the team and Jack became more publicized. He has been at many of the games on the sidelines and Rex has been in constant contact with him and his family even after being drafted into the NFL. One of the most publicized things to have happened during this time is the following video that went on to win an ESPY award.

I cannot help but be in awe of the generosity and love that has been shown to this family by the entire state of Nebraska. We hear about so many of the wrongs committed by athletes; rarely do we hear about these uplifting stories that create a real community, often under the guidance and watchful eye of God.

¹ Condensed from About Jack Hoffman.

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Jared Hall is a convert to Orthodoxy and a struggling sinner. He is married to a wonderful, natural-minded, woman and together with their two toddler boys, they are trying to make sense of this world. For this reason he chose St Brendan as his patron. He is a blue collar libertarian and passionate about birth rights, raising backyard chickens, a good scotch, and great conversations. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

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