July 16, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Indiana - Nic Weishar, a 6-foot-4, 241-pound sophomore tight end, stood in front of all of his teammates at the University of Notre Dame's football auditorium at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex in early July.
Weishar shared the heartfelt story of his brother Andrew, a former Illinois Wesleyan football player who died of cancer in 2012 at age 21.
After detailing Andrew's legacy of courage, Nic invited the Irish to WeishFest, an all-day music festival set for July 18. The event raises money for a foundation in Andrew's name that gives money to families affected by cancer.
“I went in expecting my closest friends to raise their hands,” Nic said when he asked the Irish if anyone was interesting in coming to the event at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood, Illinois.
Instead of a few hands slowly rising, every Fighting Irish player shot his hand upward immediately, unleashing a tidal wave of brotherhood and emotion.
“To see the whole team raise their hands took me by surprise,” Weishar said. “It took me back for a moment. It was an awesome experience. It goes to show the kind of guys we have on this team and what Notre Dame represents.
“That says so much about the kind of kids Notre Dame recruits, the kind of kids that we all are. Notre Dame is a special place. I'm extremely blessed to be here. I'm glad that Notre Dame has become a part of this event.”
Weishar said the togetherness of the Irish would complement the talent and toughness that are trademarks of Notre Dame football.
“That's what's going to separate our team this year and in years to come, that mentality of having each other's backs,” Weishar said of the way the Irish rallied around him and the Andrew Weishar Foundation. “We really are a team. It's moments like this that reveal the mindset of our team. We're always there for each other.”
Irish players aren't only going to the event to listen to a variety of musical talents, including headliners Eddie Money and Warrant and Chicago 6 (featuring members of the 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl champions). They will be signing autographs from 4-7 p.m. EDT at the event.
Tickets to the WeishFest are available at weishfest.com. Donations to the Andrew Weishar Foundation are also accepted year-round through the web site.
According to Daniel Weishar, Nic and Andrew's brother, the foundation has raised more than $200,000 in just three years to donate to nearly 40 families.
Nic Weishar said Standard Bank Stadium, the home of the Windy City ThunderBolts (a minor-league baseball squad competing in the Frontier League), isn't far away for Irish fans from South Bend.
“I've gotten there in an hour and 20 minutes . . . no speeding,” Weishar said with a laugh about the drive from South Bend to Chicago's southern edge. “It just depends on traffic. You could take the South Shore to downtown Chicago, and then you could catch a Metra train to Midlothian, which is about a five-minute walk to the event. So it's fairly simple to get there by train as well.”
Nic Weishar said many of his successes in life, particularly in the classroom and on the football field, have been inspired by Andrew.
“What was so special about Andrew is he literally has touched every part of my life, and every part of a lot of people's lives,” Nic said. “Andrew just seemed to do the right thing in every situation. He was always a straight-A student, in grammar school, high school, and his freshman year of college. He was a competitor on and off the field. He played football at Illinois Wesleyan his freshman year.
“The mindset he had through cancer was so amazing. Once he was diagnosed, the first thing he said to me was, 'I'm going to treat this like a game. Cancer is my competitor, and I'm going to beat it.' That was his mindset throughout the entire battle. When he said that kind of stuff, it made me realize, wow, this kid is something special. He had that never-give-up attitude. Also, the way he treated people . . . his humility . . . it was remarkable the way he cared for people.”
Nic, Daniel and their parents, Jean and Don, started the foundation not only to honor Andrew's memory, but also to help other families in their fight against cancer.
“Before he died, the one thing Andrew wanted to do was pay forward the kindness and generosity that was shown to him throughout his entire battle,” Nic said. “This foundation's goal is to do exactly that. The foundation gives to families who are stricken with the burdens of cancer. That includes the financial burden--not being able to do little things, fun things.
“We give money directly to families, and they can do whatever they please with it. Some people go on vacations with it, because they can't do that otherwise. Obviously, cancer is a financial burden that a lot of people, unfortunately, have to deal with. Other people use the money to pay bills.”
Daniel Weishar said Nic has been a vital part of the Andrew Weishar Foundation and WeishFest.
“Nic is one of the driving forces behind the foundation,” Daniel said. “He's a member of the board. He sits on a beneficiary committee. On top of that, he's a spokesperson for the foundation. He spreads the word, he spreads the mission Andrew asked us to do, and he's done a great job of doing that.”
Daniel said the inclusion of Notre Dame football players at this year's WeishFest is adding a special dimension to the event.
“We're honored that Notre Dame players will be part of WeishFest,” Daniel said. “We just became part of the Notre Dame family very recently, when Nic went there. For them to show such support to a cause that they're not that familiar with, because Nic just got there, for them to come out and support Nic and support this foundation speaks volumes, not only about the football program, but also about the entire Notre Dame community. We're very excited, and we hope a ton of Notre Dame fans show up.”