A few years ago, Adam Breneman heard about a football player who got supporters to donate to charity each time he made a tackle.
Adam Breneman's efforts have helped raise more than $185,000 to support research for ALS.
Breneman, the star tight end at Cedar Cliff High School, planned to do something similar -- get people to donate a certain amount of money to fight ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, each time he caught a pass during his senior season.
Last June, however, Breneman tore the ACL in his right knee, an injury that would keep him out of his final year of high school football and assure that his reception total would be zero.
Breneman had no intention of letting that stop his fund-raising efforts, though.
Working with Project A.L.S., Breneman, one of five Penn State recruits who will enroll early and begin classes early next month, started a program called "Catch the Cure" that raised money to fund research for the disease. His inspiration was Tom Kirchhoff, a former Cedar Cliff and Lafayette quarterback who coached Breneman's brother, Grant, in midget football. Kirchhoff, a father of four, was diagnosed with A.L.S. in 2010.
Over the last several months, Breneman was able to raise more than $80,000. Cleveland Brothers, the heavy equipment company based in Harrisburg that is managed by the Kirchhoff family, matched that amount dollar for dollar. As of last week, the total exceeded $185,000, said Breneman.
The big tight end recently visited with Kirchhoff, who continues to battle a disease that, on average, claims its victims between two and five years after the diagnosis.
"He's not doing well, but he's not doing bad either," Breneman said. "He's such a fighter … he's helped put everything in perspective for me. It makes me realize I'm really blessed."
By launching himself into Catch the Cure, Breneman was able to handle the frustration of missing his senior year of football and make his long rehabilitation process a little easier.
"It's allowed him to focus on a goal," said Breneman's father, Brian. "Focus his energy towards trying to raise this money and promote the cause, given him something that's kept his mind off his own injury. It's given him motivation to succeed at something different. Tom's attitude, his will to live life and not let this disease stop him from continuing to live has given Adam some motivation."
Breneman has been working with a Mechanicsburg trainer on his rehab -- Penn State trainer Tim Bream has kept close tabs on his workouts as well -- and leaves the facility each day "covered in sweat," he said.
"I feel great," he said. "I'm five months out of surgery, running, cutting, jumping, getting strength back. I'm right on schedule. The goal is to participate in spring practice."
Prior to his injury, Breneman had not planned to be on campus when Penn State began its 2013 spring drills. He wanted to finish out his final year of high school, if for no other reason than to play his senior season of basketball.
Not long after Breneman tore the ACL during a 7-on-7 drill, though, Penn State coach Bill O'Brien suggested that he consider coming to campus earlier. After some discussion with his family, Breneman agreed.
"It gave him something to look forward to and strive toward and put the spin on the injury where it was now a benefit that he could get a head start by getting up there," Brian Breneman said. "It helped him turn a negative into a positive. He'd finish the last couple months of rehab up there, and he wasn't losing anything sports-wise by going early. It made it a fairly easy decision after we really talked about it."
Breneman committed to Penn State last March. He stayed committed through the sanctions and has played an important role in helping keep the incoming class -- both those who will join him on campus in January and those who will enroll this summer -- together. He doesn't envy the prospects who are still in the process of making their decisions.
"I went through the process for about a year," he said. "I could not even imagine going through it, how stressful life would be right now. I'm blessed I was able to find a fit like Penn State for me early in the process. I wasn't always planning on committing early, but I'm happy I did."