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Two-year-old D.J. Miles probably won't be in Lincoln this weekend to represent pediatric brain cancer patients while the Husker football team and hundreds of others run for the cause.
He's too weak. The once energetic, chatty toddler who knew his colors and how to count doesn't talk anymore. D.J., who was diagnosed when he was 4 months old, can't walk or run, either.
So Sunday, the football team and hundreds of strangers will do the running for him at the inaugural Nebraska Football Uplifting Athletes Road Race in Lincoln.
The Nebraska chapter of Uplifting Athletes partnered with the Lincoln Track Club to host a 5K and 1-mile fun run Sunday morning. Uplifting Athletes is a national nonprofit organization that pairs college football teams with rare diseases in the hope that the players will increase awareness and funding through outreach, research, education and advocacy. The 5K will raise money for pediatric brain cancer research.
The Huskers – one of 20 Uplifting Athletes teams – adopted pediatric brain cancer as their cause after former running back Rex Burkhead befriended now 7-year-old Jack Hoffman, who has pediatric brain cancer.
D.J. has formed relationships with NU players, too. He and his his grandfather Steve Reddick met Ameer Abdullah and Quincy Enunwa about seven months ago, shortly before D.J.'s second birthday.
Abdullah and Enunwa remember D.J. They text Reddick asking for updates, he said, and D.J. remembers them, too.
“Every time he sees a football player, he calls him Ameer,” Reddick laughed.
Reddick, of Omaha, will attend the race on D.J.'s behalf. He issued a challenge to Husker fans to attend.
“D.J. probably won't benefit from it, but I don't want any other grandfather to go through what I'm going through,” he said.
The football team will attend as volunteers and run the 1-mile race at 8 a.m., said sophomore Sam Burtch, a wide receiver and Nebraska's Uplifting Athletes president. Jack Hoffman – now known nationally after scoring a touchdown during the Huskers spring game – will help to kick off the 5K race at 8:30 a.m.
Both routes start and end outside Memorial Stadium. The 5K course also loops around the Devaney Center.
About 300 people are signed up for the event. The last day to register online is Tuesday. Sign up for the 5K for $30 and the 1-mile for $20 at lincolnrun.org/races/upliftingathletes.
You can also sign up for the 5K for $35 and the 1-mile for $25 on Saturday during packet pick-up between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Lincoln Running Co. at 12th and Q Streets in downtown Lincoln.
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