NC State football coach, family fund special needs program
N.C. State football coach Dave Doeren and his wife, Sara, have made a commitment of $1.25 million to the university to support students with executive functioning challenges and those who are neurodivergent.
NCSU made the announcement Friday, and said it’s among the largest commitments made by a college football coach to their NCAA school. The new program will be called OnePack Empowered, and the commitment will pilot it for five years.
“This is about leveling the the playing field so students can chase their dreams,” Doeren said in a statement. “It’s about hope and creating a safe place for this population of students to go and get their needs met. It’s something the school needs and the students need, and God’s given us the ability to help.”
The program is being launched through the Doeren Family Fund, NCSU said.
Special needs have a special meaning for Doeren and his family. The Doerens’ oldest son, Jacob, was diagnosed on the autism spectrum as a preschooler.
“Afterward, they told us that we needed to be prepared for our son to never live outside our home to to never have a job,” Doeren said in the statement. “I was so angry. I told the doctor, ‘You have no idea what my son is capable of. How dare you limit him?’”
After high school, Jacob Doeren attended Louisburg College and benefited from the Learning Partners program at the school. He graduated with a 3.75 grade-point average and is attending Appalachian State.
At NCSU, the Wolfpack celebrates a “Victory Day” during preseason football camp each year at Carter-Finley Stadium. NCSU has partnered with GiGi’s Playhouse to give cognitively and physically impaired children a chance to play football alongside the Pack.
GiGi’s Playhouse of Raleigh provides educational, therapeutic and career-building opportunities to those with Down Syndrome.
A few years ago, Doeren teamed with former Pack quarterback Terry Harvey to win $65,000 in a coaches golf tournament. The winnings were used for an endowed scholarship at NCSU and for Doeren’s charity of choice: Special Education Services of the Wake County Public School System.
Special Education Services provides specially designed instruction for students in programs for autism, the visually impaired, those with emotional disabilities and other special needs.