Team Jack Raises Money, Awareness for Pediatric Brain Cancer

Team Jack Raises Money, Awareness for Pediatric Brain Cancer

Saturday, March 7, 2015

 

About 650 people gathered Saturday evening at The Cornhusker Marriott Hotel to raise money for pediatric brain cancer research.

Speakers at the news conference before the second annual Team Jack Foundation Gala included cancer survivor and Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton, ESPN college football sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards, former Husker football players Rex Burkhead and Tommie Frazier, and several other athletes.

They called Jack Hoffman, the 9-year-old from Atkinson, Nebraska, who regularly flies to Boston for brain cancer treatments, “inspiring.”

They called the growth of the Team Jack Foundation, which has raised $2 million for pediatric brain cancer since 2011, “unbelievable,” “amazing” and “unmatched.”

The speakers said they were “humbled,” “honored” and “privileged” to know the Hoffman family, to be connected to the Team Jack Foundation and to fly from around the country to Saturday’s event to raise awareness and funds for the cause.

At age 6, before his second and life-threatening brain surgery, Jack’s wish was granted: He met Burkhead, a Nebraska running back at the time. Better yet, Burkhead and the rest of the Huskers became friends with the Hoffman family. In 2013, Jack gained national attention and a Best Moment ESPY Award for running for a touchdown in the Huskers’ Spring Game.

Now, Jack and the Team Jack Foundation are running strong.

“Jack is still undergoing treatment,” said Andy Hoffman, Jack’s father and president of the foundation. “He’s progressing well, and the scans are looking good.”

Jack's next MRI is in April.

Hoffman said it is “incredibly humbling and overwhelming” to have people across the nation rooting for Jack.

“I can’t answer why Jack has had the blessings he has had,” Hoffman said. “It’s my prayer that all families like ours get the support like we have.”

Jack is part of a clinical trial at Harvard Medical School that gives him an oral medication to attack the genetic mutation that causes tumors in his brain. The trial is an alternative to chemotherapy and has fewer side effects. The Team Jack Foundation help fund the efforts.

“Jack is a living, breathing example why research is so incredibly important and funding for that research has to happen,” Hoffman said.

The Hoffman family flies to Boston for the treatments once a month. Jack also takes medication twice daily.

Dr. Mark Kieran, a doctor in the trial and an expert in pediatric brain cancer, said the mutation was discovered in 2009. The doctors conducting the trial have treated 30 children in the past two years. Research on the treatment is scarce, but has caused patients’ brain tumors to shrink “dramatically” in half of the cases and stop completely in the others, he said.

“Events and foundations like this one are in fact the only way we can do what we do,” Kieran said at Saturday's news conference.

Five other Nebraska children, ranging from age 6 to 12, with brain cancer also lined up at the news conference, camera lights flashing and nervous grins shining.

Keynote speaker Hamilton credited the people who have donated to the foundation for helping save Jack’s life. 

“The greatest gift ever given is to the one that never knew its origin,” said Hamilton, also a brain cancer survivor. “Kids like Jack for years and generations to come may never know where these treatments came from. But we will, and that’s kind of cool.”

Hamilton said that kids with brain cancer just want to be kids.

“It’s up to us to protect them and get them well,” he said.

The foundation plans to announce the amount of money raised from the event later this week.

Frazier, the former Husker quarterback, said he isn’t surprised by the enormous support for the Hoffman family from Nebraskans.

“When Nebraska does something, they do it big,” he said.

Hoffman said Nebraska has some of the most generous people in the world.

“There is no place like Nebraska,” he said.