Friday, September 24th commemorated the life of a very special member of the Montini Catholic family. Family, friends and fans paid tribute to former student, and football team member, Johnny Weiger, at their annual Charity Game benefiting the JAW Foundation. The non-profit organization was founded by the Weiger Family to support Pediatric Adolescent Leukemia Support (PALS), and inspired by their son, former Montini student and football player, Johnny Weiger. JAW volunteers devote their time to raising funds for families with children undergoing treatment for leukemia in the hopes of easing their financial burden.
Bronco and Viking (of St. Laurence High School) fans were given the opportunity to donate to this worthy cause by purchasing t-shirts, split-the-pot tickets and other items before the game with all money going to the JAW Foundation and Johnny Weiger Scholarship Fund.
In conjunction with the charity game and prior to the varsity kick-off, the Weiger Family presented their "Spirit of '76" Award in memory of Johnny to senior Mario Florio (from Oak Brook and a graduate of Butler Junior High School). In Johnathan's memory, the Weiger Family present this special award each year to a unique member of the varsity football team. With help from staff and coaches, they choose the player who best embodies that of great character, faith and sportsmanship.
Johnny Weiger joined Montini Catholic's school community for the 2011-12 school year as a member of the Class of 2015. He was an outstanding student of deep faith and a talented member of the freshmen football team. He was passionate about Montini Catholic and Notre Dame football with a dream of one day playing for the Fighting Irish. During Johnny’s freshman year, he was diagnosed with leukemia and he passed away on November 4, 2012 during the beginning of his sophomore year. Johnny's jersey number was 76 and was retired last year in honor of a young man who made a huge impact on Montini's school community (and continues to do so). As a tribute to their team mate, the team has worn special uniforms each year at what has been called the "Spirit of '76" game. An enthusiastic crowd of Bronco and Viking fans respectfully greeted the Weiger family as they walked onto the field to present the award. Bronco fans wore orange in support of Johnny's family and their quest to bring leukemia awareness to the forefront.
Throughout Johnny's battle, Montini's school community adopted the saying “Johnny Always Wins,” a saying that was displayed on orange wristbands, candy wrappers, t-shirts and football stadium banners. "Johnny’s winning spirit was with our Broncos throughout their journey to their 4th consecutive IHSA State 5A Football Championship," said President Jim Segredo prior to the presentation. "Throughout his battle with leukemia and TTP, Johnny displayed the spirit of a champion. He always showed great character, courage, fight and a deep commitment to his faith. The "Spirit of '76" Award pays tribute to Johnny and the positive influence he has had on his teammates and peers."
"It's always such an amazing night, not only because we honor Johnny, but because we honor a student that, like Johnny, embodies great character, faith and sportsmanship," said Johnny's mother, Fran. "Along with that, we are always overwhelmed by the continued support by past and present Bronco families!"
Above: Montini Catholic senior Mario Florio with the Weiger Family (l to r: Johnny's cousin Violet W., his father Karl Weiger, mother Fran Weiger, sister Lauren Weiger, and cousin Michael W.)