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LT alumnus wins Super Bowl, inspires charity

Isabel Tuisl, Reporter

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Jake Elliott’s football career isn’t the only thing taking off lately. Along with Elliott’s Super Bowl win as the kicker for the Philadelphia Eagles, his T-shirt sales through LT and involvement with The Eagles Eye Foundation have raised money and awareness for causes in the community. All of the proceeds from the T-shirt sales went to the Kelli Joy O’Laughlin Memorial Foundation, which grants college scholarships to students.

Jeremy Vrtis, an LT math teacher, put together a design for Eagles T-shirts with Elliott’s name on the back.

“The shirt idea came from a suggestion [JoEllen] Gregie made on Facebook,” Vrtis said. “I took her suggestion and ran with it from there.”

Although Spanish teacher Gregie did not know Elliott personally, she saw the desire for Eagles merchandise, and took action, she said.

“While reading Facebook posts from colleagues talking about buying Eagles clothing I thought, ‘Why not make it more personal by creating our own Jake Elliot LT Spirit Wear to honor his success, and then donate any profits to the philanthropy of his choice?’” she said.

The goal was to have the shirts affordable, and ensure any profits would go to the charity of Elliott’s choice, Vrtis said.

“I think [the philanthropy] is a responsibility that comes with the position that I’ve been put in, but I’m happy to help the community as much as possible and I love giving back,” Elliott said.

Vrtis asked P.E. teacher and Assistant Varsity Football Coach Jason Brauer, who is also an assistant freshmen basketball coach, if he thought it was a good idea to sell the T-shirts, and he agreed.

“Jeremy started the conversation with me and we’ve created a lot of T-shirt designs here at school so we were able to get a good price for them from the T-shirt [company],” Brauer said.

Peter Geddeis, Student Activities Director, posted an Instagram message and a simultaneous tweet to Elliott, and Elliott quickly picked the KJO Foundation. Elliott quoted the tweet not long after, indicating his choice of the KJO Foundation, Geddeis said.

“Elliott was two years older than Kelli, but Brauer said they both played tennis and did know each other,” according to My Suburban Life.

The T-shirts were originally only sold to LT administration and staff, but the decision was made to bring the sales to students and the rest of the community. Brauer and Vrtis reached out to Geddeis after the staff pre sales ended, to discuss the logistics of selling to students, Geddeis said.

“We were hoping for a good number of sales, but the community support was something that snowballed into a huge number of T-shirts,” Brauer said. “[It’s great] to see the support that the school has, [as well as] the community, for a former player and a great cause.

In the first few days of sales, 1,300 shirts were sold. On Friday, Feb. 2, there were 100 shirts sold per lunch period, and the supply met the demand for each period, Vrtis said.

“Additionally, the KJO Foundation had their own sales. It has been a wonderful level of excitement and generosity,” Vrtis said.

The KJO Foundation spent $4,000 on T-shirts, and then sold 1,000 of them for $15 each. In total, $15,500 was raised by the foundation via T-shirt sales and donations. LT numbers are separate but they are sending the foundation a check for around $1,200. Including the school’s amount raised, a combined total of $12,700 was donated to the foundation.

“It was really a wonderful experience to bring the community together to support Jake and remember his time at LT while also raising funds for Kelli’s foundation to help young people live their dreams through college scholarships, trips to Camp Tecumseh, and holiday gift giving to the children of Maryville Academy,” John O’Laughlin, Kelli’s father, said. “To think during the biggest two weeks of his life, Jake thought of Kelli and her memorial foundation, it was thrilling and somewhat humbling. We were very grateful for Jake to select us.”

The T-shirts could not have been sold at a better time, and consumers were not disappointed with their purchase. The Eagles won their first Super Bowl title on Sunday, Feb. 4, in Minneapolis. Elliott made three field goals and assisted two of the three extra-point attempts. Ultimately the Eagles defeated the New England Patriots 41-33.

“It was terrific for an athlete like Jake and it was terrific for the team,” Bill Wham, varsity coach for boys and girls tennis and Elliott’s tennis coach for two years, said. “They weren’t particularly expected to do anything this year but they did well. Going over there from the Bengals, Jake didn’t know what to expect, but the Eagles had a [fantastic] season.”

Elliott is also part of The Eagles Eye Foundation, the team’s charity that helped 70 LT students on Jan. 29 by administering free eye examinations and giving glasses to students in need.

“A lot of the NFL teams [donate to different communities], and we were fortunate to be the recipient of it, and receive a very generous gift to students who needed it,” Brauer said.

On top of everything else that Elliott is currently doing, he appeared at the LT Blackout game against Glenbard West on Feb. 16.

His connection that he still feels to the LT community has left an impact on many, even those who did not personally know him.

“It’s not every day that one of our athletes plays in a Super Bowl. Once Jake chose to support the Kelli Joy O’Laughlin Foundation through the T-shirt sales, it was only natural that the entire community would rally behind Jake and Kelli Joy,” Gregie said.

Vrtis never met Elliott either, but is definitely appreciative of him, Vrtis said.

“His story is amazing,” Vrtis said. “I’m proud that he is both a Lion and an Eagle. Fly Eagles Fly.”

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