By Jason Schock
In teaming up with a local charitable juggernaut and narrowing its focus, Community Medical Center will later this month host its biggest — in a myriad of ways — charity golf tournament ever.
For the 5th annual CMC golf event, the hospital’s foundation has partnered with the Tanner Shelby Merz Foundation and the twosome is fixed on a singular, stated aim: Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness.
Former Nebraska football greats Johnny “The Jet” Rodgers, Tommie Frazier and Jerry Murtaugh, former Husker, Kansas City Chief and Denver Bronco Neil Smith, as well as WBO World Lightweight Champion Terence “Bud” Crawford, to name only a few, will be in Falls City, event coordinator Linda Santo said.
Whereas the previous four annual charity golf events were held for the general benefit of the CMC Foundation, this time the cause is specific, and the event is a two-day affair. A “Celebrity Gala Dinner” will be held Thursday, June 25 at the Elks Club, followed by the four-person golf scramble Friday, June 26 at the FC Golf Club. Thursday, following dinner, attendees will hear from guest speaker Dr. Arthur Maerlender, the University of Nebraska’s Director of Clinical Research and Associate Director for the Center for Brain, Biology, & Behavior.
CB3, as it’s dubbed, is housed in Memorial Stadium’s newly expanded east side, which underwent a $55 million renovation and opened in the fall of 2013. Under 6,000 additional seats and 38 luxury suites, the athletic and academic worlds unite as scientists, engineers, medical professionals, teachers and students utilize the most state-of-the-art brain-scanning equipment known to man. Dr. Maerlender and his associates at CB3 and the adjoining Athletic Performance Lab are producing groundbreaking research in the field, expanding the understanding of brain function and its effects on human behavior like never before.
UNL’s growing expertise in concussion research includes the capability to simultaneously record brain activity and track eye movement and the $3 million functional MRI machine tracks the brain’s blood flow and one day may enable physicians to determine, in a matter of minutes, whether or not a person’s brain has been concussed. A vision of legendary retired football coach and athletic director Tom Osborne, CB3 and the Performance Lab are looking for ways to diagnose and treat TBI and make football and other sports safer.
Concussions (some 300,000 sports-related concussions are reported annually in this country) have become a top concern in sports in recent years and hundreds of millions of dollars have been funneled into research, much of it going to universities. Or foundations.
The CMC Foundation’s stated mission is dedication “to the health and well-being of the individuals and communities we serve. We offer hope, healing and assurance through quality healthcare, engaged outreach and faithful stewardship.”
CMC CEO Ryan Larsen, though out of town and unavailable for comment Monday, said in regards to the golf event and Dr. Maerlender’s anticipated appearance, “It is exciting to be associated with Dr. Merlander. The CB3 Institute is at the leading edge of international brain injury research, and Dr. Merlander brings powerful insights as both a world-renowned researcher and as a treating practitioner that has been promoting improved methods for preventing, identifying and caring for concussions for decades.”
The TSMF was started by the family of Tanner Shelby Merz, a 21-year-old Falls City native who was killed in a car accident in March 2013. At the time of the wreck, Tanner was attending Midland Lutheran University, studying teaching and coaching.
The non-profit organization states its goal as “helping students achieve greatness” and its mission, “to help young men and women be as safe as possible in athletics.”
Since its inception, the TSMF has generated an incredible amount of interest and money in a short amount of time. Its Facebook page had 2,355 “likes” as of Monday night and sizeable donations have been made to both Falls City schools and several youth-related activities groups. More money will enter the coffers Saturday at the second annual MudFest coed mud volleyball tournament at Jaycees Community Field.
The CMC and Merz Foundations, by joining forces, pooling resources (title sponsor American National Bank and 17 other local corporate sponsors quickly filled the four-person golf teams) and specifying a sole purpose, will host a star-studded event that will generate — by far — more money and exposure than it ever has, Santo said.
“It’s going to be big,” she said. “Much bigger than the others.”
Big, as in Big Red. There’s no place like Nebraska and since that now applies both to football and the study of the brain, Santo is wisely utilizing both resources to maximize the benefits for CMC and TSMF.
Quick physics lesson: If you apply a certain amount of force to a larger area, it will result in a certain amount of pressure. However, if you decrease the size of the area significantly, there will be a significant amount of pressure, even if the amount of force is the same.
By focusing on TBI, the door at CB3 swung wide open (members of both foundations were welcomed with open arms in May and Dr. Maerlender didn’t hesitate upon being invited to speak). Behind that door? A two-time Super Bowl champion, a world champion boxer, a Heisman trophy winner, etc.
That said, there is another big reason CMC is getting the former Huskers and star athletes to Falls City and his name is “Coach” William Reed. The former Omaha Central High School football coach once upon a time delivered big, strong, fast, elusive and tough I-backs to Lincoln (or, alas, linebackers to Iowa City) — these days he wants them back, long enough for a round of golf.
Nebraska football players draw a lot of attention – wanted or otherwise – and that doesn’t necessarily end when they stop playing. Attaching former Huskers and other well-known athletes or personalities to the cause will only draw more attention to said cause. Reed, who moved to Falls City more than a decade ago, and Rodgers have been good friends for more than 30 years — that explains Johnny’s southeastern trajectory on many occasions. Reed coached former Husker running backs Calvin Jones, Leodis Flowers and Keith “End Zone” Jones at Central, as well as Iowa All-America linebacker Larry Station. They will all follow their “Coach” to the Elks Club June 25 and out to the course the 26th. Reed helped get many former Huskers to Falls City over the years; last year, it was late-1980’s era All-America quarterback and successful Lincoln-area realtor Steve Taylor.
This year, though, it is different. Far more “star power” this time (ED NOTE – Have you ever seen a guy play the Country Club with a Super Bowl ring on his finger? Two SB rings?! Never seen a championship belt out there, either; not since Falter’s sold me one, anyway). Taylor is coming back, but not only will he not be the biggest name on the bill, he won’t even be the best college quarterback at the table. Reed, alone, couldn’t attract all these stars; TBI, alone, couldn’t attract all this attention; CB3? CMC? TSMF?
It’s all of the above, pushing in the same direction, applying just the right amount of pressure in just the right place. It’s physics, man.