Former Husker football players were among the sold-out gathering at the fifth annual Team Jack Gala on Saturday night to raise funds for pediatric brain cancer research.
But front-and-center was 11-year-old Jack Hoffman, a brain cancer survivor from Atkinson known for his touchdown run in the 2013 Nebraska Red-White Spring Game. A few months later, he received an ESPY Award for the best moment of the year.
The Team Jack Foundation was formed by Jack's family and friends in 2012, a year after he was diagnosed with cancer.
Although Jack is now in remission, the foundation continues its efforts to spread awareness and fund pediatric brain cancer research.
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Saturday's gala at Embassy Suites hotel sold out 750 tickets ranging from $175 to $650. The football players greeted attendees and childhood cancer patients during the social hour, and there was both a silent and a live auction. Last year, the event raised more than $400,000.
Former Huskers, including New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead, former Buffalo Bill Chris Kelsay, Denver Bronco Kenny Bell, Washington's Spencer Long and Minnesota Viking Jeremiah Sirles have worked closely with Team Jack since they were in college.
“Once the Husker family got on board with everything, it has been amazing to see everything grow,” Long said. “I don’t see it stopping anytime soon.”
The football players said Team Jack has become a part of their lives. Burkhead says he often discusses pediatric cancer with teammates and other NFL players before games.
“It’s starting to spread through NFL locker rooms,” Burkhead said. “We have teams who aren’t affiliated with the Huskers who know about this and ask us when the next Team Jack Gala will be.”
Jack has been a Husker football fan his whole life, he says. At one of his first Husker games, his parents bought him a Burkhead No. 22 jersey.
"It makes me happy to see him here," Jack said.
The Hoffmans say they're grateful about how the foundation has grown.
“It’s absolutely remarkable to receive so much support,” said Andy Hoffman, Jack's father. “Each year it continues to be something big.”