Every year, when a new set of young athletes arrives on the Colorado campus, they have visions of scoring touchdowns, hitting game-winning baskets or crossing a finish line before the competition.

Leaving the CU campus doesn't mean leaving the Buffaloes' family, however. In fact, Jon Embree and many former Buffs have made it their mission over the past 11 years to strengthen that bond between Buffs past and present.

This past weekend, the Buffs4Life organization conducted its annual family weekend of events, including the Kyle MacIntosh Memorial Fun Run, family barbecue and pool party and 12th annual golf tournament and awards dinner.

"It's reunited guys and got guys reconnected," said Embree, a former CU tight end and head football coach and founder of Buffs4Life. "When you leave and go a bunch of different directions and start having kids and families, sometimes you lose contact. This has been a way for a lot of guys to come back and reconnect."

The weekend events brought many former Buffs together, including football players Joel Klatt, Ronnie Bradford, Darian Hagan, Jashon Sykes and Vance Joseph, who is now the head coach of the Denver Broncos. Former CU basketball players Levi Knutson and Beau Gamble, and Buffs from other sports were also in attendance.

Several current CU football players were on hand to serve breakfast on Sunday morning.


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A non-profit organization, Buffs4Life has not only been a way for Buffs to connect, but for the group to help their "family" members in need.

In fact, the organization began when former football player Anthony Weatherspoon - who played at CU in the mid-1980s - was battling leukemia in 2005. Weatherspoon, a teammate of Embree, passed away in November of 2005. Embree and a few others raised money to help with Weatherspoon's medical costs, and then for his funeral.

Since then, Buffs4Life has helped many others in the Buffs' family. This year, the beneficiaries were former CU tight end Dave Hestera and former Ralphie handler coach and program administrator Ben Frei.

Hestera, who lettered from 1981-83 and was a senior when Embree arrived on campus, is battling Parkinson's disease and recently received a stem cell treatment.

Frei is battling Ataxia, a neurological disorder. Buffs4Life donated proceeds from the Kyle MacIntosh Memorial 5K to the National Ataxia Foundation.

"It's just so rewarding helping others," said Buffs4Life executive director Lisa Van Goor, who played women's basketball at CU from 1980-83, accumulating the second-most points in program history (2,067).

Buffs4Life has helped Buffs from all different types of sports, and makes efforts every year to raise money for those causes.

"We're all Buffs," Van Goor said. "Whether we played basketball, football, ran track, skied or whatever, we're all Buffs and we have that common thread."

Embree, now the assistant head coach and tight ends coach for the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, said that Buffs4Life uses 98 percent of its proceeds to help those in need.

"We've been able to help a lot of people, that's been the main thing," Embree said. "We've added some different events and made it more of a weekend. A good thing is a lot of guys are bringing their kids back."

Embree is both pleased and amazed at how strong the Buffs4Life organization has become over the years and said it's important for Buffs to stay close as they go through their lives.

Last month, former CU tight end Daniel Graham - who is on the Buffs4Life board of directors - lost his father, Tom, after a long battle with brain cancer. While Tom did not play at CU, many Buffs attended the funeral to support Daniel, Embree said.

"That was good to see from the standpoint of knowing that there's a lot of love in the Buff family," Embree said.

Buffs4Life has also reached out to the family of former CU running back Rashaan Salaam, the 1994 Heisman Trophy winner who committed suicide in December.

While Embree continues to be busy with his coaching career, he still has a home in Boulder County and will continue to bleed black and gold through Buffs4Life.

"We're just trying to find ways to continue to grow it so we can keep helping people," Embree said. "I've always been a Buff and always will continue to be and I'll do anything I can to help."

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at bhowell@prairiemountainmedia.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.