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75 minutes strong for Coach Gassman

July 18, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Dysart Reporter

The Union community received a heartbreaking blow when it learned that Adam Gassman, assistant football coach and high school math teacher, was battling a second round of cancer. Knowing his days on earth were limited, Joe Hadachek stepped forward with a plan to help his longtime friend's family however possible.

"Adam Gassman and I go way back, when I recruited him to Drake out of high school at Dubuque Senior," Hadachek said. "He came to Drake as a

defensive lineman, played all four years and had a great career there. We parted ways for awhile, but reconnected when I came to Union. Adam was actually at Vinton coaching and teaching. We had an opening in math at Union, so it worked perfectly for him to come over here in 2007. He'd be teaching here ever since."

Article Photos

150 participants gathered to break an unofficial world work for a kettbell competition, all the while raising funds for the Adam Gassman family after his passing.

Hadachek, Gassman and the coaching staff would develop Union into a powerhouse program in northeast Iowa, winning the 3A state title in 2011 and leading the school to multiple trips to the UNI dome in 12 years. Gassman would also be fighting his own battles as he was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2007 and would win this first round. When late stage 3 esophageal cancer came in February of this year, the longtime lineman coach would fight back again until it progressed to the point he had issues with swallowing. Even as he fought back, Hadachek and the Union football coaching staff began planning for a fundraiser in his name.

"Last Sunday, Coach (Donny) Sallee and myself drove our motorcycles down to see Adam in Iowa City," Hadachek said. "We had this idea for a fundraiser the day before we arrived and I ran it by my wife first. We had to do something and wanted Adam's blessing."

Kettlebells. 75 minutes of kettlebell competition to honor Gassman's collegiate number and attempt an unofficial world record. Teams of 10 would switch off lifting duties every 75 seconds. Hadachek planned to have the event streaming live on Facebook and link a GoFundMe page for Gassman's family.

"We started using kettlebell back in 2007 and we were probably the first team in Iowa that used cast iron balls as a main training regiment," Hadachek said. "Still today, the athletes go through kettlebell training as well as basic lifts under Coach Denner. It's like old-fashioned farmwork: bailing hay and it's hard work."

Yet Gassman would not live to see the fundraiser's efforts as he passed away on Saturday, July 13. A decision had been made prior to stop treatment and let him enjoy whatever time was left with his wife Jennifer, sons Lincoln, Ike and Ezekiel, and a godson, Miguel Tapia.

"Jennifer and the kids are awesome," Hadachek said. "Jen has been strong and courageous through it all. They had great support and enjoyed every minute Adam was able to be with us."

The fundraiser continued as planned on Sunday, July 14 on a humid summer day in Dysart City Park. 150 participants ranging from UNI wrestlers to current Union athletes gathered under the shade of trees as even more supporters set up lawn chairs to watch the spectacle. Among the former athletes competing was Jace Glenn, a 2018 graduate who saw Gassman as more than just a coach or a teacher. Gassman was Glenn's confirmation sponsor this past year, with the former Union standout choosing him as mentor for his belief in faith, family, football.

"Before his diagnosis was determined terminal, I had faith [Gassman] was going to fight through it," Glenn said. "He's been a fighter his whole life, faced a lot of adversity and gotten through it. I believed in him, prayed for him, thought about him."

Calluses from the kettlebells were aplenty, sweat was dripping from every brow and even some younger kids were taking part with jump roping as well to show their support. All the while, Hadachek was broadcasting the fundraiser on Facebook Live, interacting with former athletes and donors online while also taking his own turns with the kettlebell.

"The support has been awesome," Hadachek said. "Ron Steele from KWWL put a couple of messages out. The media did a great job getting the word to people. The Union Knight family-the coaches, the teachers, the Lions Club-everyone was donating. People were asking last minute what they could donate, including food."

Hadachek's wife, Gloria, and a devoted group of volunteers grilled burgers and hot dogs, put out chips and water, and served out of the Lions Club booth by the softball field. But even the generous amount of donations and effort put in by the volunteers couldn't prepare them for the hungry stomachs before, during and after the competition. By the end of the evening, all the hot dogs and burgers-including donations from Terry's Food Center and the Dysart Lions Club-were gone.

"This is all awesome," Glenn said. "This event shows just how great my community is. Obviously Adam was a great man, but it's awesome to see a lot of people show up to prove he was a great man."

Sallee, Union's wide receiver coach, came to the football program under Hadachek at the same time as Gassman, growing close to the former Bulldog over the years and learning from him at the same time.

"He was a great person to be around," Sallee said. "We coached together with the freshman team early in our career. It's tremendous to see a turnout like this today. These teams weren't competing against each other, but for Adam. Everyone was pushing themselves on a 100 degree day. You don't see things like this often and was a great reunion by all means. Adam touch a lot of these kids. I can't tell you a single kid that didn't get along with him. Hell of a coach."

And at the end of the day, these 150 participants lifted over one million pounds in 75 grueling minutes. Since being launched on July 8, the Gassman fundraiser has surpassed it's goal of $12,750, taking in $13,910 with the money going to the family during this difficult time.

"Coach Gassman was just a guy living a big life," Carter Spore, a former lineman for the Knights said. "Math teacher, football coach, track coach, leader in the church. He was a man who cared about his students. I remember every day walking out of his classroom he'd say "everybody have a great day!' Some days you weren't having a good day, yet hearing that made a difference."

And that appreciation for the life of a beloved father, trusted coached, religious mentor and caring teacher was exactly what Hadachek hoped would come out of this fundraiser for a man he will never forget.

"This was a celebration of Adam's life and this is exactly what he'd want to do if given a chance to compete, I know that," Hadachek said.

A public visitation was held for Adam Gassman on Tuesday, July 16. Services were hosted in the Union High School gym on Wednesday, July 17 with burial at the St. Joseph Cemetery in Dysart



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