As all eyes are on Minneapolis where suburban native Jake Elliott is getting ready to play in the Super Bowl, his sights are set on helping his community back home with a touching tribute to a classmate taken too soon.
Playing in the Super Bowl is a dream come true for Elliott, the Western Springs native and kicker for the Philadelphia Eagles.
John and Brenda O’Laughlin haven’t met Jake but their daughter, Kelli Joy, and Elliott were classmates at Lyons Township High School. Kelli was murdered by a burglar in her Indian Head Park home in 2011.
“Kelli played tennis and Jake played tennis with her,” Brenda recalled. “He says it seems like yesterday that I was out on the courts with Kelli.”
But Jake’s junior year he turned to football. His kicking success at Lyons Township High School grew as freshman Kelli's life suddenly ended.
Lyons Township High School staff decided to sell T-shirts boasting Jake’s roots for charity. Jake surprised the O’Laughlin’s by deciding the money should go to the Kelli Joy O’Laughlin Foundation.
"It was like we just won the Super Bowl because there are so many foundations and charities out there,” Brenda said.
In Kelli’s name, the foundation spreads hope through scholarships.
“The foundation provides scholarships for kids not only at our high school but other high schools in the area,” said Lyons Township math teacher Jeremy Vrtis.
As Jake soars with the Eagles, he’s given new hope to a classmate’s parents whose dreams for their daughter were cut short.
"It’s keeping her memory alive," Brenda said. "It’s giving opportunities to other young adults.”
The foundation will be selling the Jake Elliott T-shirts at Kenny’s Irish Pub in Countryside Wednesday night.