Media Advisory: ‘Hit the Bricks’ marks 35 years of student-funded cancer research

“Hit the Bricks,” an eight-hour relay race along the brick pathway of Hearn Plaza to raise money for cancer research in honor of Brian Piccolo, will be held on Oct. 1 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.  A final remembrance lap for cancer victims and survivors culminates with a luminary ceremony in front of Wait Chapel at the end of the event, which brings together students, faculty and staff for a cause that long has been important to the Wake Forest community.

This year “Hit the Bricks” marks the start of events supporting the 35th anniversary of the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund, the student-launched charity has raised more than $2 million since 1980 to support cancer research. Brian Piccolo, who attended Wake Forest in the 1960s and went on to become a running back for the Chicago Bears, died in 1970 of testicular cancer at the age of 26. This year also marks 50 years since Piccolo graduated from Wake Forest and 45 years since his induction into the Wake Forest Sports Hall of Fame. Piccolo’s story was featured in the 1971 film “Brian’s Song.”

In 1980, junior Johnny Dawkins, then Wake Forest’s vice president of the Interfraternity Council for Greek Life and a member of Sigma Pi, came up with the idea to launch a cancer research fund to harness the power of fraternities to do good for others. Through a variety of events, the money raised these 35 years has helped finance start-up labs at the Comprehensive Cancer Center where professors test cancer research theories on a small scale in hopes of achieving promising outcomes that can lead to greater support from the National Institutes of Health, the nation’s medical research agency.

For example, the Piccolo funds have provided partial support for research on fatty acid synthase inhibitors — a potentially important therapeutic target in cancer. The project tests a possible method for effectively treating advanced prostate cancer.

“Thanks to the steadfast support of the Brian Piccolo Fund our talented physicians and researchers at the Comprehensive Cancer Center continue to achieve much success in their basic and clinical cancer research endeavors,” says Dr. Boris Pasche, director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “We are most appreciative to the Wake Forest students for all their kindness and continued efforts in helping to make this happen.”

Since 1981, Mike Ford, director of philanthropy programs, has worked closely with students planning activities to support the Brian Piccolo Fund. “It’s a grassroots effort,” says Ford. “The students have been the momentum behind the fund. Most of the $2 million has been raised from nickel and dime donations from parents, family and friends who have supported and continue to support the students in their efforts to help put an end to this terrible disease that affects so many lives.”

Senior Elizabeth Earle, one of three ‘Hit the Bricks’ student co-chairs says, “I have had a lot of experiences with how cancer affects those struck with the disease and their families and friends. I have been a part of the cancer battles of a number of people very close to me, and I am passionate about finding a cure.”

Interviews are available with Mike Ford and students supporting the Brian Piccolo Fund. To request an interview with a Comprehensive Cancer Center representative, please call Shannon Putnam, Manager, Regional & Local News at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center at 336-713-8261

Visit the “Hit the Bricks” website for a video and photos from the 2014 event.

Make plans to join Wake Forest Athletics in celebrating the legacy of Brian Piccolo at the upcoming football game against N.C. State on Saturday, October 24th at BB&T Field. 

About Wake Forest University

Wake Forest University combines the best traditions of a small liberal arts college with the resources of a large research university. Founded in 1834, the school is located in Winston-Salem, N.C. The University’s graduate school of arts and sciences, divinity school, and nationally ranked schools of law, medicine and business enrich our intellectual environment. Learn more about Wake Forest University at

Categories: Media Advisory