Group aims to push Heart of Champions fund to reach Bo Schembechler's original goal of $10 million
This article has been edited to reflect that Cathy Schembechler's plans have changed and she will not be at this event.
All around Neil Weissman stood reminders of the Bo Schembechler era at the University of Michigan.
Lloyd Carr, the longtime Schembechler assistant who went on to his own College Football Hall of Fame coaching career, was at the golf outing. So was Gary Moeller, who succeeded Schembechler as Michigan’s coach. Former player and current athletic director Dave Brandon supported the event. Former player and current broadcaster Jim Brandstatter was there, as were other ex-players and assistant coaches.
“All of these influential people having curing cardiovascular disease as a goal as well as a passion for Bo’s legacy,” Weissman said of last year’s golf fundraiser for the Bo Schembechler Heart of a Champion Research Fund at Barton Hills Country Club.
Weissman, a director and wealth advisor for Telemus Capital, a Southfield and Ann Arbor-based firm, also saw opportunity. He's reached out to friends, and he wants to help the Heart of a Champion fund reach Schembechler’s original goal of $10 million.
Today, the fund, which was started in 2006 by Schembechler and his wife, Cathy, stands at about $1 million, said Corey Longley, the major gift officer of the Michigan Cardiovascular Center.
A rooftop gathering Thursday at the Jolly Pumpkin Cafe and Brewery in Ann Arbor is just the start of a long-range plan to build awareness of the fund, Weissman said.
“We’re going to do two, three events with 50 to 100 people,” Weissman said. “Through that and social media and marketing, we’ll get exponential increased exposure.
“Here’s a good comparison. The golf outing that I went to had 35 people. The Jolly Pumpkin event already has 150, close to 200 people, registered.”
The 7 p.m. event at the Jolly Pumpkin is free and open to the public and includes a silent auction. Cathy Schembechler originally planned to fly in from Colorado to be part of it but had to cancel, Longley said. Anybody interested should RSVP at heartofachampion.eventbrite.com.
A new website launched recently, and Schembechler T-shirts from Underground Printing and Moe's Sport Shop go on sale today to support the fund, Longley said.
The Heart of a Champion Research Fund supports cardiovascular research by Michigan faculty and three awards have been issued, the most recent coming this year to Dr. Will Meurer, who is researching the connection between strokes and heart disease.
Schembechler had a heart attack in 1969, another in 1987 and battled heart disease until his death in November 2006.
“Bo's medical journey with heart disease covered nearly four decades,” wrote Dr. Kim Eagle in an e-mail. Eagle is the Cardiovascular Center director and Schembechler's primary physician for years.
“He was extremely fortunate to live during a time of steady scientific advances which could be directly applied to his care ... from bypass surgery to modern therapies for hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol to modern pacemaker therapy then arrhythmia ablation ... then implanted cardioverter/defibrillators.”
Weissman said he met Schembechler "maybe 10 times," and he's read a lot about the former coach.
"I like his whole, 'the team, the team, the team' approach," Weissman said. "That's what we're doing. We're building a team that is a lot stronger than it was before."
Jim Knight is the sports director at AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at 734-623-2551 or firstname.lastname@example.org.