Coach Kill turns health issue into a positive

‘Chasing Dreams’ fund will help kids with seizures, sometimes mistreated or forgotten.

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.

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