Light Yourself on Fire - Part 2

Light Yourself on Fire - Part 2

Monday, October 2, 2017

A look back at how Team Jack got started 5 years ago.....

By: Andy Hoffman

Read Part 1 here.

The Huddle

After my meeting with Scott Shirley from Uplifting Athletes, I was on fire. A few weeks later, during a routine case discussion with fellow attorney, Mike Flood, of Norfolk, Nebraska, another piece of the puzzle came in to place. After talking about the case, he made the giant mistake of asking me how my son was doing. After giving him the quick update on Jack’s medical status, I then pivoted to how frustrated I was at the lack of funding for pediatric brain cancer research. The conversation was on a Friday. Mike responded to my tirade about childhood cancer research funding by telling me about his involvement in raising money for childhood cancer research. Mike said, as owner of US 92, a country FM station in Norfolk, that his radio station participates in the St. Jude’s radiothon every year, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mike said, “well I bet we can come up with something to help you raise money for research. Sometime when you’re coming through Norfolk, stop by and we’ll try to put our heads together.”

“What are you doing on Monday,” I replied.

The following Monday, I traveled to Norfolk to meet with Mike Flood and some of his staff members from 94 Rock. After that one hour meeting, through collaboration, an idea was born that seemed to be straight from crazy land. The idea was to have a Team Jack shirt approved by the University and designed with the Husker “Iron N logo” on it. Then, the idea was to have everybody wear the t-shirts to a game in the fall of 2012 (during Rex Burkhead’s senior year) and have a “Team Jack Out”. The best part, 100% of the profits were going to be used for pediatric brain cancer research. It was decided that the t-shirts would sell for $10 and we would find donors to pay for the printing of all the t-shirts. Another important piece of the plan, was that the Husker Sports Network radio station affiliates, who 94 Rock knew first-hand, would help promote the sale of the t-shirt. In summary, the plan was to get licensing approval for a Team Jack t-shirt, get the printing paid for by some unknown donor, have free advertising of the shirt by Husker sports network affiliates, have people sell the t-shirt as a service to the project, and hope that people would buy the shirt.

Ready, Break.

As the summer wore on, all of the pieces came together. Remarkably, the Nebraska athletic department approved the printing and licensing of the t-shirt. The t-shirt was designed and the printer of the t-shirt was identified. Approximately 14 affiliate Husker radio stations graciously agreed to help promote the sale of the t-shirt and promote awareness. Stores in each of the towns where the radio stations that were going to promote the sale of the shirt, agreed to graciously allow this t-shirt to be sold in their store for no profit to the store.

With approximately one week before we had to hit the print button on the t-shirts, all of the pieces were in place except for one. Money. Because Team Jack was a new movement, we were unable to secure the $50,000 of funding necessary to print approximately 10,000 t-shirts. With the wheels about ready to fall off of this t-shirt fundraiser, my wife and I made a financial decision that could have ended in disaster. Up to this point in time in our lives, we had been fighting this brain tumor with Jack for nearly two years. My wife had been out of work during that time. My law practice had reduced in volume by nearly 50%. While we had worked and saved up until that point in life, we were depleting our resources. After being unable to secure the necessary philanthropic funding, I called my local banker. While he knew just how crazy I was based upon the number of crazy projects I had done up to this point in time, he had no idea that I was this crazy. I asked my banker for a $30,000 unsecured loan so that I could print 5,000 t-shirts that say “Team Jack” on them. Remarkably, my banker did not laugh at me. He knew that I was lighting myself on fire.

Approximately one week before opening kickoff in 2012, my father and I traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska to pick up 5,000 t-shirts in a 20-foot enclosed trailer. We stopped in Lincoln, Kearney, Grand Island, Norfolk, and a host of other places until reaching Atkinson, dropping off nearly all of the t-shirts. With t-shirts in positions to be sold, all we needed now was people to start buying.

In addition to dropping off t-shirts at the stores where they were to be sold, we also set up a t-shirt booth during the first Saturday game vs. Southern Mississippi at the Husker Max tailgate party. I’ll never forget taking about 1,000 t-shirts to this first event, thinking that we would certainly sell the whole inventory. At game one, we sold 46 t-shirts. Then, to boot, Rex Burkhead went down with a knee injury. At the end of that day, I remember thinking to myself that we were finished.

Between the opening kickoff weekend and the second game, something began to happen. There was a shift. The radio advertising started to catch up and before we knew it, Husker fans were rallying behind the cause and traveling in to their local stores to buy the Team Jack t-shirt. A movement was afoot.

By the end of September, we were preparing for the first annual pediatric brain cancer awareness game which was Nebraska vs Wisconsin. This is the event where my son Jack would have the remarkable opportunity to do the tunnel walk with Rex Burkhead. Leading up to this event we were trying to sell as many Team Jack t-shirts before that game as possible. Just three days before the game, I remember leaving Atkinson on that Thursday around 1pm and traveling to Omaha, Nebraska in a suburban to pick up more t-shirts. After leaving Omaha around 5pm, I drove all the way to Sidney, Nebraska, dropping off t-shirts in Hastings, Kearney, North Platte, and all the way to Sidney. I was able to return home on Friday morning in time for work. After driving through the night, making the final t-shirt delivery, our case had been submitted for the pediatric brain cancer awareness game. 

Read Part 1 here. Stay tuned for Part 3...

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