Bits of Broken Chair rivalry trophy raises money for children’s hospital

The "$5 Bits of Broken Chair" trophy is a fan-based organization that challenges Gopher and Nebraska Husker football fans to raise money for each teams’ organizations connected to childhood cancer.

The $5 Bits of Broken Chair trophy started as a Twitter beef between the two teams’ fans and mascots. It was established in 2014 and was passed back and forth between the two teams based on who won each season.

In 2017, after the universities decided to eliminate the trophy as an official rivalry, a group of fans from each team came together and decided to turn the chair trophy into a charitable organization. Money raised by Gophers fans goes to the M Health Fairview U of M Masonic Children’s Hospital. Money raised by Huskers fans goes to the Team Jack Foundation, which funds pediatric brain cancer research.

"It’s a way that the fans can support the players off the field as well," Bits of Broken Chair fan organizer Mary Stepnick said. "We’re there in the stadium cheering for them but they’re over here meeting with kids and doing a lot of service projects here and we just want to show that we’re in support of that as well."

Stepnick and fans from both Minnesota and Nebraska have raised more than $91,000 since they started the competition in 2017.

"This is very unique as far as we know in terms of tying a fundraising campaign directly to a rivalry trophy and just having it a completely fan-driven thing as well," Stepnick said.

The $5 Bits of Broken Chair (FOX 9)

On Thursday, former Gopher and cancer survivor Casey O’Brien presented the trophy to the hospital so it can be on display for another year. This year, the money raised by the Broken Chair trophy went towards O’Brien’s goal of raising $1 million to transform the infusion center on the ninth floor, a place where he and many other kids battling cancer spend a lot of their time.

"It is a floor that a lot of kids who are going through cancer or are going through some sort of adversity spend time on," O’Brien said.

Even with the game over, fans can still donate to the campaign. This year, Nebraska fans beat Minnesota fans in donations. Stepnick is hoping next year the Gophers beat the Huskers in both.

"It’s a cooperative rivalry and I think that’s pretty unique."