Aug. 30, 2011
By Jon Kerzetski
University of Notre Dame all-time great Jack Snow ’65 (football) has been respected in many ways.
During his playing days on the gridiron, he was seen by fans and teammates as one of the greatest wide receivers in school history. The Heisman Trophy voters recognized him in 1964, finishing fifth in the voting after his senior season behind teammate John Huarte ’65. Snow then played professionally for the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL from 1965 to 1975.
Today, Jack Snow is being remembered for another reason. Following his death in January 2006, it was his daughter, Stephanie Snow Gebel, who was attempting to find a way to honor her father.
She decided to create the Jack and J.T. Snow Fund in early 2011 – named after her father and brother – just a few months after her five-year old daughter, Raquel, was diagnosed with Wolfram Syndrome.
“My father had passed, and I wanted to honor him in some way,” Gebel said. “Three weeks after my daughter was diagnosed with Wolfram Syndrome, I met with researchers who were recently denied a grant, which meant there was no money to hold clinics. This is when God told me, `OK kid, here is your chance.'”
The disease initially presents itself as Type 1 Diabetes and ultimately progresses to vision, hearing, and brain loss. An astonishing 60 percent of patients affected by Wolfram Syndrome do not live past the age of 30.
The Jack and J.T. Snow Fund, also known as the “Snowman Fund,” was created to promote awareness of Wolfram Syndrome and to create a source of funding for clinics in hopes of finding a treatment.
The clinics have begun at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, where Dr. Alan Permutt heads the research team, which the foundation directly funds. The first clinic took place in August 2010, followed by a second round August 10-11, 2011. Thanks to the money raised by the foundation, fourteen children from twelve different families took part in the most recent clinic, including Raquel.
However, the efforts can not stop here.
“The FDA needs three to four clinics worth of information before they will approve any type of potential treatment, which [the researchers] are confident will happen if the funds come through,” Gebel said. “This is where the foundation comes in; the more money raised, the more clinics that can be held.”
Fortunately, the foundation was able to add another member to its team.
J.T. Snow was a Major League first baseman for 15 years. Spending nine of those years with the San Francisco Giants, J.T. was able to establish himself as one of the best fielding first basemen in the game, winning six straight Gold Gloves from 1995-2000.
Throughout his career, Snow was active with several different organizations, his most notable being the American Cancer Society, which he adopted as his charity of choice after his mother passed in 1998. He is now assisting his sister, Stephanie, in spreading the awareness of the foundation and Wolfram Syndrome along the West Coast, where he currently resides.
“I have been more aggressive with this than any of the other organizations I have worked with. My goal is simply to get the word out,” Snow said. “I feel fortunate with the position I am in that I have been able to step up and reach out to so many people.”
While receiving donations has been very beneficial for the foundation, there are also several events that are scheduled to help promote awareness of the foundation and assist in raising funds. A Sports Celebrity Casino Night took place in June at the Edward Jones Dome Ram’s Club in Gebel’s hometown of St. Louis.
Casino Night was a huge success, as the foundation made approximately $130,000 from this event alone.
“We have made over $240,000 in total, with the rest simply coming from donations,” Gebel said. “We get twenty dollars here, five dollars there, and it really adds up.”
The next event is the Snowman Scramble, a golf tournament to be held at Whitmoore Country Club in St. Charles, Mo. The tournament will be held on October 17, with local celebrities, athletes, and even some of Jack’s old teammates participating to raise awareness for the foundation.
One of those former Irish greats scheduled to attend is Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte.
“Jack and I met while playing against each other in high school baseball. I was pitching and I think Jack played the outfield. He remembers getting hits off of me and I remember striking him out, so I am not quite sure what the results were,” Huarte said.
During their playing days, however, the joking was left aside while they took the field.
“I think it was our work ethics that brought us together,” Huarte said. “I was looking for a receiver to throw to before and after practices, and he was looking for a quarterback to throw to him. He was almost always available to run the routes. He always said, `Give me a chance and I’ll catch it.’ He always had a pride in catching anything around him.”
When Huarte found out about the golf tournament which would give him a chance to contribute to the foundation, he was all in.
Stephanie Snow-Gebel with her daughter, Raquel
“I am so happy to be able to be there. I feel a sense of loyalty and friendship, almost like Jack is here watching me. We had been through a lot together.”
Huarte was also quick to note what it means to be a part of the Notre Dame family, and how this group is so unique when it comes to gathering as one at a time like this.
“As you get older, you realize how lucky you were to have so many friends that you had played ball with and became friends with off the field. It is a string of lifelong friendships with guys that I really admire.”
The Notre Dame family is a powerful force, as those who have been fortunate enough to be a part of it know well. Jack Snow remains a very influential asset to the family today, and now his personal family carries on his name in a way that will hopefully do something that Jack has always strived to do – help others.
“My father was not only a great athlete, but he just had a natural presence about himself,” Gebel recalls. “No matter where it was, he had a great following, and people enjoyed hearing him speak and meeting him.”
Those that knew of Jack feel the exact same way.
Now, there is a way to show the appreciation that so many feel towards him and his family. The success of the foundation is due in large part to those who admired both J.T. and his father throughout their playing careers, who are very excited to contribute towards the cause.
“We realize it is a tough time for people economically and financially, but we have had so many courteous people looking to help,” Snow said. “When people see the web site and read our story, they are quick to contribute. It is amazing what people can do.”
The goals of the foundation are to continue growth and to not stop until a treatment is discovered and approved. This family knows what it means to come together as a team to accomplish a goal, and they are determined to do exactly that for Raquel and all others diagnosed with Wolfram Syndrome.
If the foundation is anywhere near as successful as Jack and J.T. were throughout their respective careers, then the organization is in good hands.
To learn more, visit the foundation’s Facebook page or web site at www.snowmanfund.com.
— ND —