Hitting the ground running

The Wake Forest community “Hit the Bricks” hard this year. Eighty-nine teams ran 25,571 laps around Hearn Plaza, raising $26,782 for cancer research and the Brian Piccolo Cancer Fund. More than 900 students, faculty and staff participated.

“Hit the Bricks” is part of a series of student-run events and activities to honor the former Chicago Bears running back, Brian Piccolo, who attended Wake Forest in the 1960s. The 1971 film, “Brian’s Song,” was based on the real-life relationship between teammates Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers and the bond established when Piccolo discovers he is dying of cancer at the age of 26.

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Teams ran laps around the brick-covered sidewalk of Hearn Plaza while friends cheered from the sidelines. Ambitious runners carried backpacks weighted with 10 pounds of sand to earn double credit (two laps for every one they ran).

Following the eight-hour event, exhausted runners walked around the quad in a silent lap to honor cancer victims and survivors. Gathering in front of Wait Chapel, participants listened as two students gave personal testimonies about how cancer has affected their lives.

Sophomore Elizabeth Jay spoke about how her life changed when her mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer midway through Elizabeth’s first year at Wake Forest. “Until cancer affects you personally,” Jay said, “you never fully know the fear and chaos it can cause.”

University Chaplain Timothy L. Auman invited students to speak aloud the names of those who had lost the battle with cancer or are currently fighting the disease.

“My grandmother suffered from undiagnosed bone cancer for two years,” said senior Tom Looney. “When I compete in ‘Hit the Bricks,’ I do it for her and for all the other families affected by the disease.”

Since the inaugural event in 2002, “Hit the Bricks” has raised $140,944 to support the Comprehensive Cancer Center of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

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