Run to Fight banquet celebrates race supporters
Story and photos by Jeannette Cruz
GCU News Bureau
Volunteers, sponsors, race starters and beneficiaries gathered Thursday evening for the first-ever GCU Foundation Run to Fight Children’s Cancer Superhero Awards Banquet to recognize their efforts and achievements in increasing funds for children’s cancer.
A tremendous barbecue meal and warm sunset awed guests in the Lope House at Grand Canyon University Golf Course. A tear-jerking video recapped the race day, and the ringing of special Run to Fight cow bells brought out smiles, cheers and laughter. (Click here for a slideshow from the event.)
“We’re blessed with the enthusiasm and dedication of our cancer-fighting superhero community,” said Debbie Accomazzo, GCU’s community outreach manager and the race director. “This year, we surpassed many goals — one of which was to increase the dollars raised.”
Accomazzo presented checks from the GCU Foundation for $42,000 each to the Children’s Cancer Network and Phoenix Children’s Hospital as cowbells were raised high and rung. Since 2011, thousands of runners have lined up at the starting line to raise awareness of childhood cancer and to raise funds to fight it.
Emma Kerr, this year’s race starter, continued the festivities with her younger sister, Abby, her mom, Ildi, and her dad, James, when they got up to share their story. The high-spirited 11-year-old was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014. That spirit was most evident during the Cancer Survivors Walk, when Emma decided it was time to stand up and push her wheelchair across the finish line. Emma never ceased to flash her smile.
“That’s Emma Kerr,” Accomazzo said.
Also present were many of this year’s top fundraising teams: 4R_Evan, Amber Hart, Team Hailey, Avery Grace, Jace’s Defenders (also the largest team of participants, with 127 runners and walkers), Sophia’s Sidekicks, Team Olivia (for the 2013 honorary race starter), Cupids4Kids and Fighting4Emma.
Sponsors included Sysco Food Services of Arizona, Sodexo, Safeway, Cymer, Bank of America and the grand presenting sponsor, Pono Construction. Pono, in addition to its $20,000 corporate sponsorship, raised an additional $18,000 in individual fundraising to support Run to Fight Children’s Cancer.
Butch Glipsie, owner of Pono Construction, had a somber moment when he shared his personal connection with cancer: a friend’s grandchild who recently was diagnosed with the disease.
During the celebration, Carol Gary remembered the words of her son, Evan, before he lost his battle with leukemia.
Evan, she recalled, quietly lay on the side of his bed four years ago and said, “I sure hope somebody is learning something from all of this.”
“I think what he was talking about was the willingness of every child who goes through cancer, the weariness and the commitment. Evan wanted so much to have a role in the solution,” Carol said. “That is why we passionately see the need for research expansion and that’s where our heart is.”
Ildi Kerr said, “It warms our hearts knowing what each of these organizations is going to do with those dollars. We’re going to figure out how to find a cure.”
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.