Nice shirt there, Pete Dennis.
That red one peeking out from under your black windbreaker, the tee with the Team Jack logo on the front.
And that one — the Team Jack shirt with Rex Burkhead’s name stamped across the chest. And this one, the Team Jack Lindsey Moore. And those, the Team Jack Alex Gordon, the Team Jack Jared Crick, the Team Jack Danny Woodhead, the Team Jack Bo Pelini.
Every time the Team Jack Foundation comes up with another version of the all-cotton T-shirt — the shirts that tell the world that pediatric brain cancer is a disease that must be beat — Pete snatches it up.
He might snatch two.
“I probably have 30 of them. I wear them every second of the day.”
When we talked on Monday morning, Pete was 1,922 days into his Team Jack T-shirt-wearing marathon.
It’s the least he could do, said the 58-year-old T-shirt wearing wonder, a family resource worker at Cedars.
“I’m not a famous person. It’s not like I can set up a foundation and raise an ungodly amount of money, but I can do this.”
"This" is both simple and simply amazing: Get up. Shower. Pick out a Team Jack T-shirt. (His wife, Melissa, is in charge of washing; Pete is in charge of ironing.) Wear it all day. Come home. Eat supper.
Go to bed (wearing the Team Jack T-shirt).
Get up. Shower.
Every day for five years, three months, seven days and counting.
Ever since he sat in front of his television set watching a squirt of kid in a No. 22 jersey emerge from the 2013 Spring Game huddle and run for 69 yards and a touchdown.
Jack Hoffman, a 7-year-old from the Sandhills, who launched a wave of awareness for the disease that had changed his life.
“I saw that and I thought I want to get a couple of those shirts.”
He ordered three or four.
And he wore one. He wore it around Lincoln and then the next day he wore another down to Worlds of Fun. He wore the third shirt and people started saying: Go, Team Jack!
Or asking: What’s Team Jack?
And Pete would tell them. He would tell them about Jack and his tumor and about the Nebraska kids with brain cancer and all the kids across the country fighting for their lives.
He was a walking signboard composed of 100 percent cotton and unwavering commitment.
“It just got to the point of when do you stop?”
Not yet, folks.
His co-workers are used to his wardrobe by now. (Pete has a drawerful of Cedars shirts gathering dust.)
“I started giving him grief about washing them because at the time I didn’t know how many he had,” said Dan Metzler from the cubicle next to Pete’s.
His colleague is a good guy, Dan says. A veteran of both the Army and the Navy. A worker who never shuts off his phone when 5 o’clock comes.
“He’s always wanted to help others, especially those that are struggling. I think that really hits him, seeing little kids with cancer.”
He and Melissa are foster parents. They’ve adopted five of those foster kids — four siblings and a little guy about to turn 6.
Pete shows off their photos on his phone.
The youngest? “We call him the Beast.”
The proud Husker fan father figures maybe Scott Frost will recruit the Beast one day. (And he’s anxiously awaiting the Coach Frost Team Jack tee).
The Team Jack Foundation is probably on it, Pete. And they know all about you.
They posted your picture and gave a shout-out on Facebook when you hit 1,000 days. Thank you, Pete for being a part of our #TeamJackFamily! You ARE making a difference.
“He’s a very great guy and very supportive,” said Kylie Dockter, the foundation’s executive director. “We are so thankful to have him.”
Pete has every Team Jack T-shirt design ever made, she said.
He’s attended all but one of the Team Jack galas. He shows up at the annual radiothon at SouthPointe Pavilions (tune into KLIN this Thursday).
One year, he drove to Holt County for a foundation auction in Jack’s hometown of Atkinson. The Husker fan came home with a trio of photos of Jack and his run. (Melissa is happy his bid of $2,200 for a pair of skybox tickets didn’t get the nod.)
Another year, he set up a treadmill outside Wal-Mart and raised money for Team Jack, too, 25 or 26 miles a day; 5,000 miles in all. (And $4,500 for Team Jack.)
He’s not running as much these days after a diagnosis of prostate cancer and a painful motor neuron disease.
But he’s walking around in a Team Jack T-shirt today, supporting a foundation that has raised $5 million for pediatric brain cancer research.
And he’ll be wearing one on Wednesday, too, Jack Hoffman’s 13th birthday. A boy who is still battling the cancer that is the No. 1 killer of kids.
He plans to keep putting a Team Jack shirt over his head, the soft ones and the frayed ones, occasionally the Bo Pelini.
“This is my chance to continue to have it on people’s minds,” Pete says. “I’ll stop when they find a cure.”