2002: Grosvenor M. (Budge) Porter

Graduating in 1974 from Nebraska City High School, “Budge” earned 10 varsity letters in three sports for the Pioneers. He was a two time All Conference competitor in football, basketball and track and state honors in track for two years. He received a “full ride” to play football at UNL, making him the third generation Porter to play for the Huskers. This being the days of frosh football, Budge was a starter at defensive cornerback for the freshman. Things were looking up in the spring of 1976 when he came out of winter weights as the strongest defensive back in Husker history at that time. However that ended on April 21st of that year when during practice he made a tackle on I.M. Hipp that resulted in a broken neck and total paralysis. That didn’t stop “Budge” with a strong heart and many years of physical therapy he earned his degree in 1981 in Business and Distributive Education, He still lifts weights daily and when not working he goes fishing with his wife Diane in their six-wheel amphibious ATV which he also uses for hunting. Claire, the eldest of his three children, might sum it up the best when said, “My daddy is real strong, did you know that?”

2003: Rich & Olinda Olson

After learning of Olinda’s diagnosis with Lou Gehrig’s disease some 20 years ago, Rich and Olinda just dug down deeper to raise their young children. Countless hours were spent at their kids’ activities, especially if it involved basketball, since Rich is varsity girls basketball coach at Millard South. Even after she couldn’t climb the bleachers, Olinda would sit on the bottom row offering her praise and encouragement. Over time, as the disease took its toll, she became more determined to see her children grow up, graduate, get jobs, and even marry. Year after year she still makes the games sitting in her wheel chair unable to walk or speak, but she still communicates with her eyes or by mouthing the words to her interpreter. There is a lot of post-game analysis that takes place at home, and she even writes letters of instruction and encouragement to many of Rich’s players. Rich is always near by for Olinda, making sure her health services are in place, and if not, he takes care of her needs himself. Rich never complains because he admires the courage of his wife and draws inspiration from her.

2004: Matt Johnson (Omaha Bryan) & Allison Aldrich (Schuyler)

Both are cancer survivors, single leg amputees and athletes. Matt played football for Omaha Bryan High School. Allison played volleyball, basketball and soccer for Schuyler Central High School.
Allison’s grit and determination gained one very elite step. She competed in the 2004 Para-Olympic Games in Athens as a member of the US National Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team.

2005: Neil Halford Fort Calhoun

Fort Calhoun
1992 and was a state qualifier in 1991.
Neil Halford of Fort Calhoun placed fourth in the state wrestling meet in 1992 and was a state qualifier in 1991.Halford lost his sight at the age of two when he was kicked in the face by a horse. Despite blindness, he placed fourth in the state wrestling tournament in 1992 and was a state qualifier in 1991. A self-proclaimed “huge” football fan, Halford used athletics to build character and fuel a competitive nature. After winning only a handful of matches during his freshman and sophomore years, he turned hard work and dedication into a successful junior and senior campaigns. His senior year, he practiced and worked out with the football team and, although he didn’t play, was named a team captain. He has written a book, “The Sound of Sight,” about how his hearing has helped him cope. See his website.

2006: Sara Prenosil Omaha Roncalli graduate in 2003

Heart problems since birth forced a heart transplant in 2000 and she’s been on an inspirational pace ever since. She was a good swimmer when younger and came out for the swim team at Roncalli, mostly for exercise for her new heart, and that success and enjoyment took her into competition nationally in the US Transplant Games where she has won two golds and two silver medals since 2002. Back home, she became a speaker for the Nebraska Organ and Tissue Donor Coalition. She’s been the subject of several printed articles and website features “urging others to fight”. She volunteers as a mentor to other transplant patients. A student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, she is majoring in exercise science.

2008: Staci Rene Perrigo-Venneman Omaha



Staci Rene Perrigo-Venneman never shied away from competition. Born without a right arm below the elbow, Staci began competing in swim meets at the age of eight. At 12, she earned a spot on the United States Amputee Athletic Association swim team, competing in international events in England, Australia, South Korea and Holland. In 1991, she set the world record in the 50-yard freestyle and was named the Female Athlete of the Year by the United States Amputee Athletic Association. At Omaha Northwest High School, Staci joined the swim team as a freshman, competing for four years and qualifying for the state meet her senior year as a member of a relay team. She also played soccer for the Huskies and went on to play soccer for two years at Rockhurst University.

2010: Jason Branigan Papillion


A two-time state wrestling champion and an all-state football linebacker, Jason Branigan was diagnosed with testicular cancer, brain cancer, and cancer of the lymph nodes while a high school senior. The diagnosis followed a loss in the 1991 state semifinals where Branigan, nearly doubled over with pain in the third quarter, continued to play until the final gun.

His competitive athletic career was over but he was determined to defeat cancer and remains in sports and education as the wrestling coach and a social studies teacher at Papillion-LaVista South High School.

2011: Tom Heiser Lincoln


Dr. Tom Heiser suffered a physically limiting spinal cord injury in Maui, Hawaii, in 1990, but never let it keep him from an outstanding career in orthopaedic medicine. He no longer works as an operating surgeon but continues to champion a career as a physician, utilizing his exquisite diagnostic knowledge and experience while managing care of his patients.  Tom was an outstanding school athlete at Columbus, a high-scoring all-state running back in football, and a starter on the 1972 Class A state championship basketball team. He enjoyed a stellar football career at Nebraska.