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Community Request: Help Senior Associate Football AD Dan O'Brien and His Son Casey Win the Uplifting Athletes’ 2015 Rare Disease Champion Award

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This is a The Daily Gopher Red Alert! Put yourself to good use!

Casey O'Brien (wearing Minnesota gear on the Iowa sideline) during Maxx Williams famous "rubber wake" catch.
Casey O'Brien (wearing Minnesota gear on the Iowa sideline) during Maxx Williams famous "rubber wake" catch.
gophersports.com

Maybe you've seen this story already, maybe you haven't.  Here's what you need to know.  In the fall of 2013, a young man who played quarterback for his high school started having severe pain in one of his knees.  His family took him to see their doctor, and after tests, a devastating diagnosis was given: the young man had a rare form of bone cancer known as osteosarcoma.

How rare is this cancer?  Only 800 cases are diagnosed in the United States each year.  The disease primarily affects children and young adults.  The cancer forms a malignant, and aggressive, tumor.  Beating it is no small task.

The young man in our story began treatment, which included 24 rounds of chemotherapy to poison the tumor and a knee replacement surgery that's usually performed on adults three-times his age.  He spent over 100 days in a hospital room, with his mother staying with him during the day and his father staying with him over night.  His father's career often sent him traveling, but he would fly home every night that his son was in the hospital and fly out again in the morning.

The young man, with the support of his family, beat the rare form of cancer and is now a healthy teenager.

Now that the treatments are over, the young man is getting back to normal with his family and a sport that he loves: football.  He attended the Citrus Bowl with his family, which was huge for all of them.  They missed the Golden Gophers' bowl the previous year because of the treatments.  You see, the young man I'm talking about is Casey O'Brien, and his father, Dan, is the Senior Athletic Director in charge of the University of Minnesota's football program.

When Dan was informed of Casey's diagnosis, he had a good friend with him in the room who was no stranger to life-changing news from a physician: Minnesota Head Football Coach Jerry Kill, who's personal battle with epilepsy has been an inspiration to Minnesotan's and the nation alike.

Taking their cue from Coach Kill, Casey and his father realized they had an opportunity to make a difference and they got to work.  Casey bravely shared his story with local news outlets like KARE 11 and WCCO (whose articles were leveraged for this story) to raise awareness of the disease and to help raise money for the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital, where he was treated.  Dan became became active with the Angel Network and gave a keynote address at a fundraiser for the hospital.

Their efforts are being noticed nationally.  Dan is one of six finalists for the Uplifting Athletes’ 2015 Rare Disease Champion Award. 

You can help him win this award by voting here.

Please go vote.  This is a worthy use of five of your minutes.

If you'd like to learn more Uplifting Athletes, visit their website.  What follows is a description of the organization from the Gophersports.com story on Casey and Dan.

Uplifting Athletes is a full service national nonprofit organization aligning college football with rare diseases and raising them as a national priority through research, outreach, education and advocacy. What makes Uplifting Athletes unique is that our university chapters are run by current football student-athletes, providing them with an opportunity to gain management and leadership skills while learning how to leverage their assets and abilities to make a positive and lasting impact. Each chapter adopts one out of approximately 7,000 rare diseases (such as Aplastic Anemia, cystic fibrosis, pediatric brain cancer, kidney cancer, Leukemia, Neimann Pick Type-C, Neuroblastoma,, Fanconi anemia, etc.).

Congratulations to Casey and Dan and family for beating a rare disease and Hats Off for making a difference in other children's lives.  Also, congratulations on the nomination for this award.

Now, TDG readers, go vote and let's bring this award home for the O'Briens.  Spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, and however else you can!  Ski-U-Mah!