The Marian University Football team was inducted into Sports Faith International Hall of Fame on Saturday, May 14, 2016 in Forest Lake, Illinois. The team was honored for their 2015 NAIA Football National Championship and for their choice to join Team Impact, an organization that matches up children with life-threatening and chronic illnesses with local college athletic teams.
The team matched with Cole Winnefeld, a young boy from Bedford, Indiana, fighting cancer. Cole was battling Stage IV Chronic Neuroblastoma, a cancer that started in his adrenal glands and spread to his bones. Cole was signed to the team in 2014 and bonded with his fellow players immediately. Their friendship captured the attention of the Marian University community, the city of Indianapolis, and beyond.
"Our relationship with Cole is life changing for everyone in our program," Head Football Coach Mark Henninger said. "Cole taught our players so many things (perspective, love, toughness, etc.) and it was great having our players witness Cole’s toughness as he bravely fought that terrible disease."
Sadly, Cole Winnefeld passed away on July 29, 2015 at the age of 11, but he left behind a powerful legacy through the people and the team he inspired. The Knights dedicated their 2015 season to Cole and ended that season with a national championship.
The Winnefeld family created the Batcole Foundation (Through his courageous fight, Cole’s family saw him as their little superhero, and so his alter ego Batcole, was born.) to raise funds for research on therapies for neuroblastoma and pediatric cancer. Marian University has also created the Cole Winnefeld Endowed Scholarship to honor him.
The event was put on by Sports Faith International, a Chicago-based initiative dedicated to inspiring and transforming our culture through the world of sports. It will utilize the best of new and traditional media to feature and encourage the powerful personal testimonies of outstanding athletes at all levels, who are living out their faith on and off the field.