The Pitt football team has been a big friend of the UPMC Children’s Hospital over the years, and that will continue once again this year.
The long snappers have certainly helped. Cal Adomitis raised well over $100,000 for his ‘Cal’s Kids’ fundraiser back in 2021, shaving his head in the process, and Byron Floyd announced his own Snapper49 fundraiser to raise $49,000 for the Children’s Hospital earlier this year.
Now it’s new quarterback, and Gibsonia native, Phil Jurkovec who is using his platform to give back.
Jurkovec announced Thursday — joined by Pitt teammates Christian Veilleux, Nate Yarnell, Ty Dieffenbach, Jake Frantl, David Lynch, Shayne Simon and C’Bo Flemister — that his “5 for Kids” NIL fundraiser will attempt to raise $100,000 for the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the UPMC Children’s Hospital. It’s a cause that is near and dear to Jurkovec’s heart.
In an interview with Rick Dayton from 100.1 FM and AM 1020 KDKA Thursday afternoon, Jurkovec went a bit more in-depth about the 5 for Kids fundraiser and why the NICU at the UPMC Children’s Fundraiser is so important to him and his family.
“My little brother Sebastian, when he was three years old, he was born 13 weeks prematurely,” Jurkovec said. “He was two pounds, two ounces, so he spent a lot of time at Children’s Hospital, and even though I was young, I lived through that with him and UPMC Children’s was just so good to my family, so now that I have the chance to give back, I wanted to do it.”
Sebastian, who is 20 years old and works at Shultz Ford in Wexford now, spent the first few years of his life in and out of the hospital, undergoing numerous surgeries and around-the-clock nurse care while he was actually at home. The initial prognosis wasn’t good.
“I know it’s a scary feeling, especially the fact that they didn’t give him a big chance at surviving, so it was scary for my family,” Jurkovec said. “It was very stressful for my parents, but they tried to alleviate that for us as much as they could. I just remember that it’s scary going in the hospital, but they do such a nice job at Children’s, at making it accessible and friendly for all the patients and families.”
The medical care that Sebastian received from the doctors and nurses in the NICU at Children’s not only allowed Sebastian to survive but thrive, and he’s now a healthy young man with a passion for cars.
It’s a blessing for the Jurkovec family, and it’s a blessing that Phil himself is in a position to use his platform to give back and help with a cause that he’s cared about — grown up around — his whole life. He’s following in the footsteps of many, many other athletes, collegiate and professional, that have given back to the community in some way.
“Growing up in Pittsburgh, I’ve seen so many athletes give back to the community,” Jurkovec said. “The coolest stories I would hear are the Steelers guys who would go to the hospital and visit with the kids and wouldn’t even make a big deal about it. But there’s just been some many examples, so now that I have a little bit of a platform here, I want to be able to give back.”
All of the proceeds from the 5 for Kids fundraiser will be donated to the UPMC Children’s Hospital Foundation, specifically the NICU. And while the fundraiser kicked off today, it will be a season-long goal.
Of course, Jurkovec has a goal to put together a strong season on the field and lead Pitt to another ACC championship, but his aspirations — both near and far — now include giving back to a place that means the world to him.
“He keeps things in perspective, and I think it’s been important just growing up, having that experience was a lot for me and my siblings because it just put everything into perspective,” Jurkovec said. “Sports isn’t that important when you have something like that going on.”
Pitt will kick off its 2023 season against Wofford on Sept. 2 at Acrisure Stadium, but the 5 for Kids fundraiser — as of 11:30 p.m. Thursday — has already raised $7,600 — with $5,000 from Jurkovec himself.
You can donate to Jurkovec’s 5 for Kids fundraiser here.