Jerry Kill’s family has become especially passionate about two things during his nine-year battle with epilepsy — the importance of seizure-smart schools and the value of Camp Oz, a specially designed camp for young epilepsy patients.
On Thursday, the Gophers football coach started a new “Chasing Dreams” fund through the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota to help ensure Camp Oz’s long-term viability and support seizure-free school initiatives.
Kill and his wife, Rebecca, donated $100,000 and have an initial goal of raising $500,000.
“That’s a start, but we’re going to do a lot more than that,” Kill said, noting that local pharmaceutical company Upsher-Smith is on board as a sponsor. “Our job is to get a half-million [by Aug. 1] because if we do that, Camp Oz will be there forever.”
Kill has spoken at Camp Oz in Hudson, Wis., and seen the benefits of a camp with doctors and nurses on hand in case the kids have seizures.
In three seasons with the Gophers, Kill has missed parts of four games because of seizures. Last October, after a seizure kept him from joining the team for its game at Michigan, Kill took a two-week leave.
Kill, 52, said he “wouldn’t be standing here today” if it weren’t for Rebecca Kill and others knowing what to do when he had his October seizure.
“They saved my life,” Kill said. “And now it’s time for me to help others in our great state.”
Kill added: “We want to get in every single school in the state of Minnesota and educate them on how to handle seizures in the schools.”
Rebecca Kill said she didn’t know what to do the first time she saw her husband have a seizure, but she has learned over the years.
“It’s very, very important that we get people to know what to do,” she said. “The kids in the schools — they’re getting bullied when they have a seizure. We can’t have that happen.
“We need the kids to know what to do. We need the principals, the school bus drivers. If we start at the schools, it’s going to keep on going.”