Run to Fight banquet blooms into a ‘thankfest’
Story by Karen Fernau
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau
The ceremony unfolded into a circle of thanks.
First, Debbie Accomazzo, race director for the Grand Canyon University Foundation Run to Fight Children’s Cancer, thanked those who helped raise $90,000 for pediatric cancer.
The list was long — 450 volunteers, a wide and vast GCU staff, local businesses and runners determined to cross the finish line to help find a cure for and lend a hand to children battling cancer.
In turn, families of children with cancer and the recipients of race proceeds — Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Children’s Cancer Network — expressed their heartfelt thanks.
The “thankfest” ceremony Thursday night at GCU’s Canyon 49 Grill showcased a run that in its seven years has raised more than a half-million dollars for research by PCH and into CCN’s mission of supporting children and their families.
“Teamwork makes the world go round and this race is one of the best examples,” said Amber Glispie, counsel for Pono Construction, a Platinum Award winner. Pono Construction, the Grand Presenting Sponsor, donated $20,000 as a sponsorship investment and raised an additional $19,000, bringing their total gift to nearly $40,000.
For George Hyduchak, father of 6-year-old Jace, this year’s superhero race starter and unofficial captain of the 100-plus Jace’s Defenders team, the race was bittersweet.
“Out of the worst experience came the best experience,” he said. “I’m honored to be a part of the race, and sad to see it come to an end.”
For CCN Director Patti Luttrell, the race helps pay for a much needed counselor to work with cancer patients and their families at PCH.
For Dr. Stacy Nicholson of PCH, the race offers a lifeline of caring.
For cancer patient Kaitlin Slepain, honorary co-captain of this year’s largest team, Stronger Together, the race gave her a way to give back.
Instead of attending the ceremony, Slepain was undergoing radiation for spine cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital.
But that didn’t stop the Chaparral High School senior from delivering her message of inspiration.
In a video address, Slepain thanked the “overwhelming” support from family and friends. At 147 runners, her team was the largest ever to race. Stronger Together, co-anchored with Chaparral High School classmate Lauren Kettell, also raised nearly $12,000 in online donations. The two met undergoing blood transfusions for cancer.
“Lauren and I, we wanted to have an impact, to give back to communities that have helped us so they can continue to help others,” she said. “Our efforts are just testament that we are always stronger together.”
Slepain also spoke about her own childhood cancer.
“I’ve learned how to be a fighter. I’ve learned that my situation does not control my life. Every step of the process, Phoenix Children’s has been there for me. ”
Kettell echoed her friend’s sentiments. “It’s incredible to know we can raise money to help other children.”
For Accomazzo, also GCU’s community outreach manager, the race accomplishes more than raising critical money to battle pediatric cancer.
“Our work is not just about raising funds, it’s about raising awareness,” she said.
Mission accomplished: The race and its message of hope were spread by local media outlets to their 25 million readers and viewers.
The ceremony also showcased the spirit of the run.
As Accomazzo explained: “At Run to Fight, we say that ‘no one fights alone’ and looking at all of these people who have contributed to the cause, we know it is absolutely true.”
Awards and thanks were given to the following:
Spooner Physical Therapy, Nicole Scott; The View Hotel, Shanae Thompson; Enterprise Holdings, Jodi Terbush; Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Katie Scardello; Suntec Concrete, Jennifer Booth; Pacific Office Automation, Adam Pritchett; Albertson’s Companies and Safeway Foundation, Nancy Keane
Official Radio Sponsor: iHeartMedia, Katie Kosmas and Jared Krenlacek
Grand Presenting Sponsor: Pono Construction, Butch Glispie and Amber Glispie
In Kind Donations
ASGCU, Slate Herman; Sole Sports Running Zone, Karen Seymour; Postino Wine Café, Lisa Noble; Riviera Broadcasting, Lu Valentino; The CW6, Amy Was; GCBC, Brennan Williams; Sysco Arizona, Carol Hopkins; Vistar, Jeff Raasch; Watermill Express, Marcus Tork; PRO EM Events and Rentals, Brady Castro
Bronze Level with donations between $500-$999: Team Somero with $510; Team Lily Panda Strong with $913; Team Emmazing with $950
Silver Level with donations between $1,000-$1,499: Team 4R_EVAN with $1,210
Platinum Level with $5,000 plus: Team Stronger Together with $11,891 and Team Jace’s Defenders with $17,309
Overall Fundraising Champion: Team Pono Construction with $19,454.
For a slideshow from the banquet, click here.
For a video of a race day recap, click here.
Contact Karen Fernau at (602) 639-8344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.