The first time Gophers head coach Jerry Kill had a seizure, his wife Rebecca didn’t know what to do.
“It’s hard because you are having to see your loved one go through something like that, but you also have to be the one there to help them get through it,” she said in front of a packed crowd at Kieran’s Irish Pub on Thursday. “It’s not easy.”
But understanding seizures may become easier with the help of Jerry and Rebecca Kill. On Thursday they announced the “Chasing Dreams” fund, which seeks to educate Minnesotans about seizures.
“We want to get in every single school in the state of Minnesota and educate them on how to handle seizures in the schools,” Jerry Kill said.
The Kills have donated $100,000 to the fund, which will be run through the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota.
Kill, who was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2005, said he wants fundraising to reach $500,000 by August.
In addition to education, the money will also go toward financial support for Camp Oz, a weeklong camp in Hudson, Wis., for children with epilepsy.
The camp costs $1,750 per child, but families are asked to pay $200. The “Chasing Dreams” fund will provide more monetary support, which Kill said will allow Camp Oz to stay open “forever.”
“Those camps are so important,” said Kill, who has visited Camp Oz. “You have to get doctors there. You have to have nurses there — that costs a lot of money.”
According to the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota, 60,000 people in Minnesota and North Dakota have epilepsy. Adolescents are the largest group impacted.
“The kids in the schools, they’re getting bullied when they have a seizure,” Rebecca Kill said. “We can’t have that happen.”
Jerry Kill, who has missed parts of four games during his tenure at Minnesota, has turned into one of the nation’s biggest advocates for epilepsy awareness, and his influence has appeared to have an impact in the state.
Kim Kelsey’s son, Alec Kelsey, has battled seizures for more than a decade and she credited Kill with being an inspiration through hard times.
“You have been such a voice and such a positive impact for him,” she said to Kill.
As the Thursday event finished, Kill told the crowd that football allows him to reach out to the public about epilepsy.
“We have children right here in our state — in our country — that are having 50 to 100 [seizures] in a day,” Kill said. “So we’ve got to find a way.”