By Jeannette Cruz
GCU News Bureau
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and Grand Canyon University is working to bring attention to childhood cancer awareness.
Friday, GCU Stadium will “go gold” when the men’s soccer team dedicates a special Run to Fight Night to support the formal launch of the seventh annual GCU Foundation Run to Fight Children’s Cancer — the event’s earliest kickoff ever.
GCU players will wear gold ribbons, a symbol for childhood cancer awareness, and 22 survivors and siblings will walk alongside the team before the game. A booth on the sidewalk behind the north goal will ask attendees to join the fight against pediatric cancer with a special one-night-only registration discount.
“It just makes sense that our race season would begin during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month,” said Debbie Accomazzo, race director and community outreach manager for GCU. “We want to increase our number of participants, volunteers, sponsors and champions who are better educated about the current state of care that’s provided to a child who has received a cancer diagnosis. There have been little to no advancements in treatment in the last 20 years, and the number of children diagnosed each year is increasing.
“It will take a village — it takes a village to survive a cancer diagnosis, particularly when it’s a child, and we are here to rally the village and honor the fight that these kids and families are waging.”
In the United States, approximately 18,000 children from birth to age 19 are diagnosed with cancer every year, and yet the funding for pediatric cancer research remains below 5 percent.
The seventh annual Run to Fight Children’s Cancer 5K/10K and Cancer Survivors Walk is scheduled for Saturday, March 11, on campus. With more than 3,000 runners and spectators, the race helps bring hope and attention each year to the families and friends of the little troopers battling cancer.
GCU men’s soccer coach Schellas Hyndman said it’s an event the team is proud to support.
Members of the team showed their support for the community-wide initiative last March when they cheered on participants at the beginning of the race, set up an inflatable goal and donated signed soccer balls to the cancer fighters.
“We were absolutely touched,” Hyndman said. “When you see the children’s faces, they’re always smiling, but when you look at their parents you know the pain that they’re in. So for us this is an important event.”
As GCU and guests prepare to honor the 2017 race starter at Friday night’s event, Ildi Kerr reflected on her family’s journey with pediatric cancer in a commentary published by the Arizona Republic.
Her daughter, Emma, was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. Last year, the 11-year-old Phoenix girl missed 81 days of fifth grade because of cancer treatments and resulting infections. She pulled through after 55 days at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
Kerr described being the race starter as the “highlight of Emma’s year” but said she is ready to wholeheartedly pass on the opportunity to the new race starter.
“GCU really gave Emma and our family something to look forward to, and it also gave Emma a drive when she got home,” Kerr said. “Emma pushed herself into physical therapy to get out of her wheelchair by the time of the race.”
And she did. Emma surprised everyone during the Cancer Survivors Walk when she pulled herself up and pushed her own wheelchair across the finish line right alongside the other radiant cancer warriors.
“That was huge, and I think that drive came from the passionate support,” Kerr said. “We’re proud and honored to have been the honorary race family, and we will look back with such great memories.”
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or email@example.com.