On Father’s Day, Sunday, June 20, the Nebraska football team hosted its ninth annual Nebraska Football Road Race to benefit childhood brain cancer research.
Over 750 participants ran or walked the 1-mile fun run or the 5K race among the entire Husker football team. Huskers, in their home red jerseys, lined the start and finish lines and were all along both courses, cheering on the runners, with some running alongside participants.
Before and after both races, the team was available to the public for photographs and autographs.
As in years past, families that have been affected by childhood brain cancer attended and were honored at the event.
Before the 1-mile fun run, Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez spoke to those in attendance. He talked about his involvement in the Nebraska Football Road Race and about how cancer has touched his life. He thanked Husker Nation and the community of Lincoln for supporting the event and the cause.
“I know what it’s like to fight for this cause,” Martinez said. “Growing up, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and passed away (from the disease). It’s not easy, but I know it’s better together.”
Following Martinez, Angie Vasa, aunt of 12-year-old brain cancer fighter Kieran Akerson of Valley, Nebraska, addressed the crowd. She shared the feelings her family faced when Kieran was diagnosed last December and about his fight. Vasa asked everyone to imagine walking that journey with their child and ended with this:
“Seize your moments, tell the people you love that you love them, and say ‘yes’ to the things that matter. Eat the dessert, take the vacation and run the race. Let’s run this race to honor those who cannot be here with us today, to celebrate those who can and to change the future for those that come next.”
Event dedicated to the late Andy Hoffman
This year’s event was dedicated to the late Team Jack Foundation cofounder Andy Hoffman. After advocating for childhood brain cancer for nearly a decade, Hoffman himself was diagnosed with glioblastoma brain cancer in July 2020. He fought hard for seven months, all while continuing the fight for childhood brain cancer, before passing away this past March.
Andy’s wife Brianna, his children Jack, Ava and Reese, and many other family members were on hand to run and walk in Andy’s honor.
Prior to the start of the 5K race, Nebraska football coaches Greg Austin and Ryan Held spoke about the impact this race has on them and on the team, ending with a “Go Big Red,” firing up the crowd.
Then, on behalf of the Nebraska football team, Keith Zimmer, senior associate athletic director and director of the Life Skills Department, presented the Hoffman family with a framed #1 Nebraska jersey bearing the name HOFFMAN, and an inset photo of the Hoffman family at a past road race. The plaque on the gift states: “In honor of the outstanding leadership and advocacy by Andy Hoffman to raise awareness and funds for pediatric brain cancer research. Always remembered, never forgotten and deeply passionate about Husker football, while always striving to make a difference! Presented on Sunday, June 20, 2021, by the Nebraska football team and all of Husker Nation.”
Following the jersey presentation, Brianna Hoffman took the microphone and thanked the crowd and everyone involved in making the road race happen each year.
“Andy always said, ‘A drop in the bucket has a cumulative effect – whether you're here supporting someone or running, it all really makes a difference,” she said. “Because of events like this, we have been able to fund a lot of research as a foundation, and now we are able to fund research here in Nebraska, in Omaha, which has been amazing. We are well on our way to creating an awesome brain tumor program right here in the state. Andy would be humbled and honored that everyone is here today supporting the event. As a family, we want to say thank you everyone for coming, and you're really making a difference.”
Road race sponsors
Supporting the Nebraska Football Road Race were title sponsor The Home Agency, the University of Nebraska Life Skills Department, and the Lincoln Track Club. To date, including proceeds from this year’s race, $175,000 has been raised for the Nebraska Childhood Brain Tumor Program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha. This program was started by $1.5 million from both the Team Jack Foundation and the State of Nebraska. In 2018, the Team Jack Foundation announced a $5 million pledge to continue developing the program to help children in Nebraska and in the Midwest have access to the best care possible.