NASHVILLE, Tenn. – An 82-hour fundraising effort to help combat pediatric cancer kicks off Saturday during pregame activities ahead of the Vanderbilt-LSU football game. The “Be a Hero for Turner” campaign benefits Turner’s Heroes, a non-profit founded by Vanderbilt football student-athlete Cody Markel. Markel created Turner’s Heroes in June as a lasting legacy to his late teammate, Turner Cockrell. Turner wore jersey No. 82 for three seasons before losing his cancer battle in 2018.
Vanderbilt Athletics, along with Turner’s parents Randy and Noelle Cockrell and the Turner’s Heroes board of directors, have joined to support Markel’s efforts.
On Saturday, the Vanderbilt football team will pay tribute to Cockrell whie supporting the non-profit in several ways. Starting with the team’s Dore Alley pregame walk through Vandyville at 8:50 a.m., student-athletes will distribute hero capes to young fans. Each player’s “Battle Ready” helmet, designed with 82 rivets to honor Cockrell, will feature a Turner’s Heroes decal. Student-athletes and coaches will wear Turner’s Heroes wristbands. Video messages from Vanderbilt coaches and former student-athletes about Cockrell and the campaign will air throughout the game.
“Turner had an infectious personality filled with laughter, joy and good spirit. To be able to dedicate a game to Turner and his memory is something many of us talked about and wanted to do,” Markel said. “Turner’s Heroes was started to honor Turner, so to see this come to fruition is incredibly special to us, and to all of those who were connected to him.
“I hope everybody can come together to honor Turner, who was an incredible teammate, brother and son.”
Since its inception, Turner’s Heroes has aimed to lift the spirits of young patients and support research. To bring laughter, joy and a sense of escape into the lives of pediatric patients, the charity used Cockrell’s lifelong passion for superheroes to inspired a series of successful parties at Vanderbilt’s Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital.
The superhero events brought kids and Commodores together to decorate superhero capes designed by the hospital’s young patients.
The organization hopes to address its second mission of working toward a cure for pediatric cancer this weekend with the “Be a Hero for Turner” drive. The goal is to raise $50,000 to fund a discovery grant at the children’s hospital. The grant is intended to provide critical seed money for pediatric cancer research efforts that could lead to positive results and more extensive study.
The campaign has the full support of Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason and his wife LeighAnne, who have promised to contribute significantly to the fundraiser through the Mason Family Foundation.
Markel is thrilled the Mason family is supporting the effort.
“I want to say thank you to Coach Mason,” Markel said. “I think this shows that Coach Mason is not only a great football coach, but a phenomenal human being that truly cares about his players, this program and this community.
The Cockrell family and the board of directors for Turner’s Heroes will be honored during Saturday’s game.
For more information on the effort, visit TurnersHeroes.org.