A personal mission becomes a cause for Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award finalist

A personal mission becomes a cause for Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award finalist

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Written by Herb Branham

In 2011, Andy Hoffman's young son Jack was diagnosed with a brain tumor. And so, in America's Heartland, the battle began for the life of one child. Soon, the situation led Hoffman's family to take on another battle of national scope, for the lives of many children.

One year after the devastating diagnosis, Hoffman had T-shirts made to sell as a fundraiser for children's brain cancer research. Approximately 20,000 shirts were sold, more than $300,000 was raised. Inspiration morphed into dedication and a year later Hoffman and his wife, Brianna, formed "Team Jack Foundation" based in Atkinson, Nebraska. In the process, they confronted the fact that procedures to treat pediatric brain cancer – both in surgery and chemotherapy – were more than 30 years old.  A further catalyst was the obvious need for funding, for further childhood cancer research.

Team Jack Foundation raises money to fund impactful pediatric brain cancer research while working to create national awareness for the disease. The long-term goal of the non-profit organization is to fund research at the top research centers in the United States and internationally with a special emphasis on the state of Nebraska and the surrounding region, where research centers are limited.

"Our goal is to raise as much money as we can, as fast as we can and get that money into the hands of the best researchers in the world to help find a cure for pediatric brain cancer," Hoffman said.

It's happening. In 2013, Hoffman appealed to the Nebraska State Legislature for funding at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, resulting in the state matching Team Jack Foundation's commitment of $1.5 million. The foundation has raised nearly $3 million, with the funding going to five research programs across the country. In addition, Hoffman has run three marathons through which he personally raised more than $10,000.

Hoffman, 37 – and a longtime Jeff Gordon fan – is one of four finalists for The NASCAR Foundation's 2016 Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award Presented by Nationwide. The award will be presented by France, The NASCAR Foundation's Chairwoman Emeritus and founder, on Sept. 27 during the inaugural Honors Gala at the Marriott Marquis in New York City. The foundation will donate $100,000 to the charity represented by the award winner and $25,000 to each of the other three finalists' charities. The award winner will be determined via an online vote now underway and running through Sept. 26 at 5 p.m. ET at NASCAR.com/Award

Andy Hoffman and his son, Jack, at a chemotherapy session.

Each year, approximately 4,300 children are diagnosed with life-threatening brain cancer. Young Jack Hoffman's battle continues, but for many other children, the battle is lost.

"As a parent, when your child receives that first cancer diagnosis, it's a process," Hoffman said. "It's devastating. It's paralyzing. Then you go from being paralyzed to almost having a pity party, and you're praying, asking God, 'Why?' But then, the next step is, 'How are we going to beat this thing?'

"I can't ask for a better group to advocate for, than these kids going through something like this. … There's so much more work that needs to be done. We've only scratched the surface.

"For whatever reason, God chose us [to face this challenge] so we felt like it was our job, our obligation to other families … to use all of the blessings in our life, to do the most amount of good as possible."

To learn more about this year's finalists for The NASCAR Foundation's Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award presented by Nationwide, and to cast your vote today, go to www.NASCAR.com/Award. Voting is open now until Sept. 26 at 5 p.m. ET

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