FORT CALHOUN, Neb. — Nebraska's can-do spirit was on display here Sunday at a fundraiser for a Norfolk Catholic football player who was seriously injured in a Nov. 6 playoff game.
Residents of Fort Calhoun, Norfolk and many towns in between rallied to support Isaac Pfeifer and his family, raising money with a spaghetti dinner and silent auction. Isaac, 18, and his mother, Becky, remained at the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, but his father and four siblings said they were bowled over by the support.
“This is overwhelming and probably the most inspirational thing that I've ever witnessed,” said older sister Halee Pfeifer. “I think Isaac is also taken aback. He was, like, 'Wow, they're doing all that for me?' ”
Isaac was injured in a routine tackle of a Fort Calhoun player. He lay on the field in Norfolk unable to move for several minutes before being airlifted to an Omaha hospital, where he underwent surgery on his neck the next day. Halee said her brother has movement in his upper body but has no feeling or movement in his legs.
“Isaac will be at Madonna for a couple more months,” Halee said. “He is in therapy from 8 to 4 every day, and on top of that he does his schoolwork. The staff down there said they will make sure he can graduate with his class next spring.”
Neil Pfeifer, the injured boy's father, said he recently met with the Fort Calhoun player who was tackled on the play that injured his son. He wanted to make sure the young man didn't feel any guilt.
“No one is to blame,” Neil Pfeifer said.
Fort Calhoun, which lost the playoff game, has rallied around the Pfeifer family. Mike Conrad, one of the fundraiser's organizers, said people immediately began asking how they could help.
Dozens of individuals and organizations, including Fort Calhoun High School's football players and cheerleaders, volunteered their time and talents.
Members of the Knights of Columbus and a women's fitness group also volunteered to work on the benefit. Eddie's Catering in Omaha donated the pasta and made the dinner.
People read about the fundraiser online and sent checks from all over the country. Others called to offer prime rib dinners, Kansas City Chiefs tickets, sports memorabilia and romantic getaways for the auction.
Musical performers Joe Taylor and Kim Eames of Omaha were joined by Sue Murray of Blair to entertain the hundreds of diners.
Taylor, 78, said he read about Isaac in The World-Herald and said to himself “I've got two legs and I'm walking around fine. I'd better get up there and help.”
On Saturday, the Knights of Columbus in Norfolk will hold another spaghetti feed to raise money for the Pfeifer family in the activity center at Sacred Heart parish. Dan Lyons and Jim Molacek of Norfolk will help with that fundraiser, but Sunday they were among dozens of that city's residents who made the 200-mile round trip to Fort Calhoun.
“I can't believe the turnout here today,” Molacek said. “To see Fort Calhoun so energized is amazing. It really doesn't matter how far apart we live, everybody in our two communities really came together.”
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