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It’s all for the love of Pete

Ken Fowler | Friday, April 21, 2006

David Martin knew his time was more valuable than his checkbook to Pete Duranko, his former teammate from the 1966 national championship football squad who suffers from ALS, a debilitating condition more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

So when he and his friend Pete Schulte were talking three months ago about the best way to help support Duranko, Martin said he’d dedicate his free time to organizing an event to raise money for the former All-America defensive lineman.

“In this case, I can’t simply write a check to Pete to cover a lot of the costs,” Martin said. “Honestly, I’ve spent more time than I … really expected. But in this case, I’m using my time and resources as a labor of love.”

Thanks in large part to Martin’s initiative, Duranko’s former teammates and friends will be hosting a dinner for the former star in the Joyce Center entitled “For the Love of Pete” Saturday after the Blue-Gold game. Duranko will also be a captain for the game.

Irish coach Charlie Weis said Duranko’s personality is what fosters such sentiment among his former teammates.

“When you have guys who are involved in national championship teams that are as well-respected as Pete … I think the fact that of the people around him want to give him his just due is justifiably so,” Weis said Wednesday.

Duranko’s final year at Notre Dame was supposed to be 1965, but he earned a then-rare medical redshirt season to compete on the 1966 quad that beat USC en route to the Associated Press national championship.

Martin said his experience on the team with Duranko, including watching the 6-foot-4 255-pound lineman perform a back flip on the sidelines just to lighten the atmosphere, was all the reason he needed to help out before ALS takes full control of Duranko’s body.

“He’s a terrific guy and he’s terribly unselfish,” Martin said. “What’s happened to him … it’s just a real robber of ability.”

Martin said his friend Dick Swatland and fellow Notre Dame graduate Russell “Cappy” Gagnon were able to contact alumni and former teammates to start the process of organizing the event. Martin contacted the athletic department, which offered the use of the Joyce Center for the dinner.

“A couple of the guys approached me, and we didn’t blink an eye,” Weis said. “I think that the support of all the alums, especially his old teammates, [has] been great. The outpouring has been great.”

Tickets to the event are $125 and proceeds will go to the Notre Dame Monogram Club’s Catastrophic Relief Fund, set up to defray the costs of people in extraordinary circumstances. Martin said he hopes the Monogram Club directs a large portion of the donations to Duranko himself.

All donations above the $15 value for the dinner are tax deductible, Martin said.

He said that specification has helped bring unanticipated success to the fundraiser.

“Initially I was looking to raise hopefully around $25,000 for Pete,” he said. “We’re now into a category where we’re hopeful … to come close to $100,000.”

Martin said that while raising money is the goal of the weekend, the “spirit” is something different.

“It’s really for the love of Pete, as far as we’re concerned,” he said.