Funding Research for Pediatric Brain Cancer


2019 Team Jack Foundation Gala

Thank you for your support of the 6th Annual Team Jack Foundation Gala presented by Fat Brain Toys! 

Gala Photos

2019 Gala Photos are courtesy of Jessica Blex Photography.  Please feel free to download, share, print, as you wish!

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • This year’s event was once again emceed by NBC NASCAR’s Rick Allen.
  • Super Bowl Champion and Team Jack Board Member, Rex Burkhead, welcomed the crowd, followed by the invocation by Ron Brown, Director of Player Development, Husker Athletics.
  • Brianna Hoffman, Co-Founder of the Team Jack Foundation and member of Team Jack’s scientific advisory committee, gave an update on Team Jack’s research projects: for updates, click here.
  • We were honored to have Dr. Jonathan Schwartz from UNMC/ Children’s Hospital & Medical Center with us that evening to update guests on the progress of the brain tumor program in Omaha.
  • Mark & Karen Carson, Founders of Fat Brain Toys, were named the 2018 Teammates of the Year.  In addition to their $30,000 Title Sponsorship, Fat Brain Toys also presented a $22,209 check to Team Jack from the annual “Round-up for Team Jack” campaign.
  • This year’s Spotlight Story, sponsor by Jim & Sharri Baldonado and The Home Agency, was in memory of Nathan Waggoner, who passed from DIPG (the deadliest form of brain cancer) in 2010.  Mr. Baldonado and his family presented the Waggoner Family a check in the amount of $50,000 to Team Jack in memory of Nathan.  Watch Nathan’s story here.
  • After the Spotlight Story, we announced our recent commitment of $150,000 to Dr. Richard Phillips at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City for DIPG research focusing on a new drug delivery method which would lead to new treatments for kids with DIPG.
  • The Husker Alumni Chapters (comprised of former Huskers) generously donated $31,000 to the Team Jack Foundation this year.  Presenting the check on the behalf of the alumni chapters were:  Jeremiah Sirles (Buffalo Bills), Spencer Long (Buffalo Bills), Brent Qvale (New York Jets), Zach Sterup (Miami Dolphins), Rex Burkhead (New England Patriots), Brett Maher (Dallas Cowboys) and other former Huskers.
  • Dr. Tom Osborne delivered the keynote address followed by a Q & A with Coach Osborne and Rex Burkhead.

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For 2020 sponsorship inquiries, please contact or 855-RUN-JACK.

Thank you to our 2019 sponsors! 

Presenting Sponsor: 

Spotlight Story Sponsor: 

Silent Auction Sponsor:

General Sponsor:


VIP Room Sponsor:

Team Jack Family Tables Sponsor:

Championship Level Sponsors: 

Meal Sponsor:


General Sponsor: 


Victory Level Sponsors: 




Teammate Table Sponsors:

Trotter, Inc. | Baird Holm LLP | Gary Hoffman Family | Husker Rehabilitation & Wellness Center  |  FuturesOne

UNICO Group | Campbell Family | Burch & Associates | Circle BK Farm & Ranch  |  Raising Canes Chicken Fingers

C&A Industries, Inc.  |  Tom Galyen Family |  Allo Communications  |  Petty Family  |  ForeverNate  |  Jeff Galyen Family

Children's Hospital & Medical Center  |  Mariner Wealth Advisors  |  Nebraska Football  |  Dennis Baumert Family

Midwest Oral Surgery & Dental Implants  |  St. Anthony Foundation  |  Nebraska HOSA  |  Hampton Enterprises  |  Exchange Bank

Ameritas  |  Clearwater Feed & Grain  | Huffy's Airport Windsocks |  |  Nebraska Farmers Land & Title

Frosty Anderson & Friends  |  Grady's Avengers  |  Dan Olson Family   |  MedArbor Innovative Healthcare Services 


General Event Details

$2,850 Per Table | $750 VIP Each | Individual Tickets-Call 402.925.2120

  • Location | Embassy Suites Hotel | Lincoln, NE

  • Parking | Valet Available & Garage Parking

  • 5:00pm Social Hour | 6:30 Dinner & Inspiring Program

  • Cocktail Attire

  • Hotel Accomodations | Embassy Suites | Book Here


Dick Vitale

  • College Basketball Analyst for ESPN
  • Passionate Pediatric Cancer Advocate
  • V Foundation Board Member
  • Member of 17 Halls of Fame including Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

Rex Burkhead

  • New England Patriots Running Back
  • Team Jack Foundation Board Member
  • Left Huskers as school's No. 5 all-time rusher, scoring 35 total TDs

Rick Allen

  • NBC Sportscaster
  • NASCAR Commentator

Zach Sterup

  • Current Miami Dolphin Offensive Tackle
  • Former Nebraska Cornhusker
  • Team Jack Alumni Chapter Member

Jeremiah Sirles

  • Buffalo Bills Offensive Lineman
  • Former Nebraska Cornhusker
  • Team Jack Alumni Chapter Member

Spencer Long

  • New York Jets Offensive Lineman
  • Former Nebraska Cornhusker
  • Team Jack Alumni Chapter Member

Jordan Westerkamp

  • Former Nebraska Cornhusker
  • Team Jack Alumni Chapter Member

Brent Qvale

  • New York Jets Offensive Lineman
  • Former Nebraska Cornhusker
  • Team Jack Alumni Chapter Member

Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-1980 seaons-just after the network's September 1979 launch-following a successful and pro coaching career. In 2008, Vitale received the sport's ultimate honor when he was selected as an inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. ...

Continue Reading Bio Here

"I’ll do anything to raise money because not enough’s being done. Only four cents for every dollar raised for cancer research goes to pediatrics. Four cents! It’s a crime." -Dick Vitale

College basketball: Dick Vitale fights for pediatric cancer research

By Jeff Roberts, The Record - Published September 25, 2016

Dick Vitale with 8-year-old Joshua Fisher (blue Rays jersey), who is cancer-free after a battle with leukemia.

The fight to save his life began when he was just 2 years old. Now 8, Joshua Fisher already has endured 1,200 doses of chemotherapy and radiation in a battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

The young man’s name is Jake Taraska. He, too, has faced his own mortality.

"Jake had neuroblastoma," said Dick Vitale, his familiar, hoarse bark rising above the background noise Friday as he spoke from South Bend, Ind. "They told Jake that he probably wouldn’t live. They told Jake that he probably wouldn’t speak or walk."

The Voice of College Basketball is coming home to Bergen County on Thursday to be honored, but he doesn’t want to talk hoops. Instead, the native of Garfield and East Paterson (now Elmwood Park) wants to talk about Fisher and Taraska, and fighting pediatric cancer.

Vitale — whose humble roots as the East Rutherford High School basketball coach led him on the path to becoming a cultural phenomenon with ESPN — will be greeted as a returning hero. The borough will dedicate the Grove Street playground in his honor, christening it the Dick Vitale Courts. Then the East Rutherford Civic Pride Association will honor him as its Person of the Year at its annual gala at Il Villaggio in Carlstadt.

Vitale, 77, cannot wait to see old friends such as former assistant coach Bob Stolarz and players Dwight Hall, Joe Solimini and Kim Becker. But it’s the kids battling cancer, the kids whose stories choke him up when he tells them, whom he wants to discuss.

If basketball was the center of Vitale’s existence for most of his life, it’s now raising money for pediatric cancer research.

Proceeds from the gala will support the V Foundation for Cancer Research, as well as the civic pride association, which aids borough families in need, treasurer Jody Bartlett said.

"I’ll do anything to raise money because not enough’s being done," Vitale said. "Only four cents for every dollar raised for cancer research goes to pediatrics. Four cents! It’s a crime."

This is the side of Vitale that often gets lost amid his supersized persona and ESPN shtick.

He’s seen the tragedies. He spoke at the funerals of kids who lost their battles with cancer. Kids like Eddie Livingston. Adrian Littlejohn. Dylan Simmons.

He also has seen the triumphs. Fisher is cancer-free. Taraska, a Voorhees native and freshman baseball player at Keiser University in Florida, has been cancer-free for years.

Earlier this year, he founded the Jake Taraska Foundation, a non-profit organization to help find a cure for pediatric cancer.

"Dick has been a mentor to me and given some perspective on life and how I can help out after everything I’ve been through," said Taraska, 18. "He’s a great guy. And he’s doing a lot for kids and not taking credit for it."

Richie Vitale rose from a sixth-grade teacher and coach in East Rutherford to the NBA as the Detroit Pistons’ coach before finding sports broadcasting superstardom.

He’s become synonymous with college basketball, credited by some with helping it grow from a regional game to a national sport.

"He loves to come back to his roots," said Stolarz, Vitale’s assistant at East Rutherford from 1964 to 1970, when they won four state sectional championships and two state titles. "There’s a lot of memories."

Vitale is still "Dickie V." Loud. Passionate. Intense. Dropping multiple "Awesome, Babys" in a phone conversation and text messages.

And he’s not going anywhere.

In June, ESPN extended Vitale’s contract through the 2018-19 season. It would be his 40th year with the network.

"I feel absolutely great," said Vitale, a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. "I’m going to do two games a week. I love what I’m doing. The man upstairs will decide how long I go.

"I feel as energetic as any 20-, 25-year-old kid."

A man who has battled depression, lost the vision in his left eye in a childhood accident, and almost lost his trademark voice a decade ago appreciates that he still is remembered. And Bergen County will always be home.

"My life’s exceeded any dream. I’ve lived a dream," Vitale said. "And that dream started right there coaching and chasing dreams and winning back-to-back state championships at East Rutherford."

The dedication of the Grove Street playground will be 4 p.m. Thursday. The ERCPA gala will start at 6:30. For tickets, visit, or call Bartlett at 201-729-1883.

Read original article here

2018 RECAP
2018 RECAP



Lincoln, Nebr. (March 5, 2018) –On Saturday, February 24, more than 750 people attended the sold-out fifth annual Team Jack Foundation Gala at Lincoln’s downtown Embassy Suites raising over $440,000 for pediatric brain cancer research.

Guests from all over the state, and even nation, attended the annual event in Downtown Lincoln.  In addition to the keynote speaker, Mark Herzlich, current New York Giant, Super Bowl Champion, ESPY Winner and Cancer Survivor, special guests from across the country came together to show their support.

Rex Burkhead, New England Patriot and current Team Jack Board Member, has played a vital role in supporting the cause and getting other former Huskers and current NFL players to join.  Amongst Burkhead, other special guests included: Ameer Abdullah, Kenny Bell, Jeremiah Sirles, Will Compton, Spencer Long, Chris Kelsay, Nate Gerry, Barrett Ruud, Brent Qvale, Zach Sterup, Jordan Westerkamp, Brandon Reilly, Lavonte David and many more

In addition, Rick Allen, NBC NASCAR commentator emceed the event.  There was also a special address from UNL Athletic Director Bill Moos.  Moos reminded fans that the East Side of Memorial Stadium “has a sign that says Through These Gates Are the Greatest Fans in College Football.”

“Husker fans are special in the way they support their teams, they really do stick together in all kinds of weather. I am not surprised at all to see Husker fans get behind a cause like this one. There is no bigger need and no tougher battle than the fight against pediatric brain cancer."  -Bill Moos, Director of Athletics, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

“Husker fans are special in the way they support their teams,” he said. “They really do stick together in all kinds of weather. I am not surprised at all to see Husker fans get behind a cause like this one. There is no bigger need and no tougher battle than the fight against pediatric brain cancer. I am so honored to have this opportunity to spend very special time with amazing children who are battling this terrible disease,” Moos said. “I congratulate the Hoffman family and the Team Jack Foundation for this amazing benefit to celebrate the fifth anniversary in a quest to find a cure for pediatric brain cancer. They are doing amazing things with Dr. (Jeff) Gold at the University of Nebraska Medical Center,” Moos said.

Since its inception in 2013, the Team Jack Foundation has raised over $5 million in five years for pediatric brain cancer research.  Currently, the Foundation has funded two projects to completion and has earmarked dollars for four additional, ongoing projects nation-wide, including a new brain tumor program in Nebraska.  During the Gala, the Foundation announced that as part of the new program and with the help of Team Jack funds, the University of Nebraska Medical Center has hired Nebraska’s first pediatric neuro-oncologist, Dr. Jonathan Schwartz.

“On average, since inception, 87 percent of the expenses go directly to program services, which translates to $0.87 of every dollar goes to where it needs to go.  Team Jack spends less than 10 percent on management expenses. Currently, they have one full-time employee and one-part time employee.  Annually, Team Jack utilizes over 200 volunteers.  Hearing the stories one on one and knowing the battles these kids have and the hoops they have to jump through only motivates the team of Fat Brain to be more committed,” said Karen Carson, Co-Founder of Fat Brain Toys and Team Jack Board Member.

The Foundation also announced they would be making another $5 million commitment to UNMC for clinical and laboratory research, pain management in cancer and education.  Recently, they received a $500,000 donation specifically for this program called the POWER5 Pediatric Brain Cancer Initiative.

"It means a lot because we're helping so many people," said 12-year-old Jack Hoffman.

The 5th Annual Team Jack Gala was broadcasted live on News Channel Nebraska.  To watch the replay, visit

For more information on The Team Jack Foundation, please visit the website:   Follow The Team Jack Foundation on and on Twitter: @TeamJack.