Jerry Kill will win a lot more football games as head coach of the Gophers. There’s even reason to hope that, in time, his ascending program will play its way into Big Ten championship contention and major bowl games.
On Thursday, however, Kill and his wife, Rebecca, gave a gift to this community that will pay dividends long after the wins and losses become mere trivia. Turning a difficult personal health and career challenge into a positive, the Kill family announced a new fund, called “Chasing Dreams,” through the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota.
The Kills are donating $100,000 to start the fund, which will support seizure awareness programs in schools and give financial stability to Camp Oz — a retreat for young epilepsy patients where Jerry Kill has been a featured speaker. The goal is to raise $500,000 by Aug. 1.
In the macho, ultracompetitive world of major college sports, coaches are loathe to admit any personal weakness or vulnerability. Health issues are often hidden because of the potential impact on recruiting and team focus.
Kill would have preferred privacy, but when seizures caused him to miss parts of four games, his challenge became national news. Instead of retreating, the Kills went to work with the Epilepsy Foundation. “Chasing Dreams” is the most enduring — and most important — product of that partnership.
Sure, the Kills can afford the $100,000 donation. Earlier this year, the coach signed a new contract that pays him $2.3 million annually. But $100,000 is a significant gift that reflects a deep commitment to kids who are too often forgotten, harassed or misunderstood.
University students, alumni and employees have every reason to feel proud of their head football coach and his family. The best coaches are educators first, and the lesson in positive perseverance that Jerry Kill is teaching these days is worth our admiration and support.
Scott Gillespie has been editorial page editor since October 2007. He is responsible for the Star Tribune's editorial and opinion pages and Sunday Opinion Exchange section. Prior to his current assignment, Gillespie was managing editor at the Star Tribune, responsible for the day-to-day operations of the newsroom. During Gillespie's five-year tenure as managing editor, the Star Tribune staff produced awarding-winning coverage on the death of Paul Wellstone, the war in Iraq, the collapse of the I-35W Bridge and dozens of other stories. Before being named managing editor in 2002, Gillespie was assistant managing editor for local news at the Star Tribune. He also served as the paper's assistant managing editor for business news. He has more than 25 years of news reporting and editing experience at newspapers in Wisconsin and Minnesota. He served as a Pulitzer Prize juror in 2004 and 2005. Gillespie has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has been an adjunct faculty member in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota. He lives in St. Paul with his family.
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