Four days before the Nebraska Football Uplifting Athletes Road Race, the Husker football community received some great news to set the table for the fourth annual event in Lincoln.
Grady Simants, an 8-year-old from North, Platte, Neb., learned his battle with pediatric brain cancer had turned a corner and he was cancer free. Simants was part of the rare disease patient contingent that participated in the road race.
Pediatric brain cancer is the inspiration that moved the Nebraska football program to start a student-athlete led Uplifting Athletes Chapter.
More than 800 runners participated in the annual 5K and 1-Mile Fun Run, and it was a day where the focus was on giving back to the rare disease community.
“It means a lot to me because we’re raising awareness for a rare disease, so people affected by it usually don’t get a ton of funding or a ton of awareness or recognition,” Nebraska Chapter President and Huskers LB Chris Weber said. “So for us to be able to work with them, it’s really cool.”
The Nebraska Chapter started tackling rare diseases in 2012 when it joined Uplifting Athletes. The student-athlete led Nebraska Chapter serves the rare disease community in honor of a relationship between pediatric brain cancer patient Jack Hoffman and former Huskers and current Cincinnati Bengals running back Rex Burkhead.
This friendship led to Burkhead winning the Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award in 2012 and Nebraska forming an Uplifting Athletes Chapter.
In 2013 Hoffman’s 69-yard run at the Nebraska spring game became a national story that went viral and allowed the Hoffman family to shine a light on rare diseases that included winning an ESPY Award and a visit with President Barack Obama in the White House Oval Office.
The fourth annual Nebraska Football Uplifting Athletes Road Race raised more than $36,000. Proceeds from the event supports rare disease research and patient focused programs. The Team Jack Foundation is a research partner of Uplifting Athletes for rare pediatric cancers.