American Brain Foundation “Standing Strong” Fundraiser


American Brain Foundation, TBI awareness, Ben Utecht, RBC Wealth Management, Minneapolis, Life With a TBI

Simon and I with Ben Utecht

This past week I had the pleasure of attending the American Brain Foundation’s Fundraiser, “Standing Strong”. It featured an evening of camaraderie amongst supporters who want to find cure for brain diseases.

The highlight of my evening was meeting Ben Utecht.

Fun fact: Ben and I both attended Hastings High School (I may be a few years older than him) and we both have a TBI. Of course, he also has a Super Bowl ring and is a musician (I have zero musical talent).

Ben played for the U of M as a four-year starting player before winning a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts in 2006. He would later be picked up by the Cincinnati Bengals, but suffered a career ending concussion in preseason practice in 2009. He is currently the spokesperson for the American Brain Foundation, which brings me much joy!

What struck me most about Ben, aside from his 6’6″ frame, was his genuine concern about my TBI. He sincerely wanted to make sure I was feeling well that evening and asked how my recovery was going. I was very touched by his concern and authenticity.

I told Ben I would like to give him a copy of my book, but didn’t want to make him carry it around all evening….. he graciously told me that wasn’t a problem at all and would love to read my book. I explained to him that I hope my book can help make a difference in the lives of TBI survivors, and bring awareness to their loved ones, as well as the medical community. I must admit, it was pretty exciting to see him carry my book around as he schmoozed with other attendees 🙂

After a tour of the TCF Stadium, we settled in for a few remarks from the ABF, followed by a touching remark from former United States Vice President Walter Mondale. Then Ben and his band played a wonderful concert for us, including a performance with his wife on the piano.

I was able to attend this fundraiser thanks to my best friend Simon, who works for RBC Wealth Management. One of RBC’s branch managers, Hal Tearse, was a sponsor of the event and was very kind to allow us to attend on his behalf.

At the end of the evening, Simon gave a generous donation to the ABF and received an autographed football from Ben Utecht and former U of M Gopher’s Football Coach, Jerry Kill. Coach Kill recently resigned as head Coach due to his health and Epilepsy (which is a brain disease). These balls are a few of the very last Coach Kill autographed before resigning last month.

It was a wonderful evening, and I am very grateful I was able to attend. I hope that having Ben as a spokesperson will help bring more attention to the severity of concussions and TBI, and that it will also lead to changes in youth sports.