Caught up in GCU spirit, mom donates prize

Thunder celebrates with Tracy Reese of Apple Valley, Minnesota, after she won the Thunder Bolt drawing during GCU Family Weekend.

She had never seen the Grand Canyon University campus before, and now her first visit was for one of the busiest events of the year, GCU Family Weekend.

“It’s overwhelming. It exceeded my hopes and expectations,” said Tracy Reese, enjoying her stay in the Arizona sun after trekking all the way from Apple Valley, Minnesota.

She saw the community spirit. She felt the strong servant leadership vibe. And when, as fate would have it, she won the Thunder Bolt drawing and was free to grab as much Lope Shop merchandise as she (and Thunder, GCU’s mischievous mascot) could in 30 seconds, she was determined to give back – because that’s what people at GCU do.

“What would I ever do if I won something like that?” she thought to herself right before her ticket was drawn.

“All I could think about was, ‘I could never use all that myself.’ So there would have to be some purpose bigger than me. Then when I won it, I was like, ‘OK, God, what are you telling me?’”

By Monday, she had God’s answer. After letting her daughter, Rachael, select a couple of items from the $1,800 haul, she donated the rest of it to whatever cause Parent and Family Programs Coordinator Robyn Hord deems appropriate.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Hord said, “because that’s just one example of the generosity of our Lope families. That’s just who we are at GCU.”

Reese enters the Lope Shop with Thunder to begin her 30-second shopping spree.

Reese got a full dose of that spirit and found it to be the perfect answer to her prayers for Rachael. Tracy didn’t know anything about the University when her daughter first heard of it, but one word – coupled with GCU’s affordable tuition – piqued Tracy’s interest.

“All I heard was Christian,” she said. “I’ve never been able to afford to send her to a Christian school, but I’ve been so concerned about what’s going on with the indoctrination of the kids.

“For the last 4-5 years, I’ve been praying to put people in her life. When this opportunity came up, even though it’s so far from Minnesota, I was like, ‘You go!’”

Reese said her weekend got off to a bumpy start when she had a fender bender on the way to campus Friday, forcing her to miss the Student Panel discussion she wanted to hear. But when she finally arrived and started meeting people – especially after the Thunder Bolt drawing – it all turned out smoothly.

As she walked around campus with Rachael and her roommate and saw what GCU is about, she came to one conclusion:

“This is exactly the right fit. I mean, I wish I was a student here. I just lament having gone through college not saved. I didn’t know how to reach God. I couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t know anyone who was a Christian. There was always a longing, and I was so direction-less.”

She joined the Air Force after graduation and served for 25 years, reaching the rank of major. There, she met someone who turned her on to Christianity, and now serving the Lord is the main focus of her life.

Reese took only one item at a time, but Thunder had more ambitious ideas.

That’s part of the reason why she stayed over for Chapel on Monday. She loved seeing the big crowd of students in GCU Arena sing with the music and listen intently to the message from Jeff Dyer of Heartfire Missions, which sends people all over the world to perform life-saving surgeries.

She was so moved, in fact, that afterward she sought out the Heartfire booth, set up for Missions Week, in the hope of volunteering her services (she’s now a Veterans Administration nurse). She also wants to get more involved with GCU by working for Hord’s Parent Council.

All that focus is on giving. That’s why taking that merchandise from the Lope Shop felt so odd.   

“I was taking one at a time,” she said, “but Thunder was grabbing much more. Afterward, I knew it was going to be for some other purpose.”

She had such a good time on campus, even without the Lope Shop spree, that she wished she could stay the whole week. Rachael first was focused on Florida when she started talking about college, but Tracy is so happy she chose the dry heat of Arizona. She’s so happy she chose GCU.

“It was the Lord,” Tracy said. “I believe that. I don’t think anyone’s here that isn’t supposed to be.

“It’s been a great witness to the family.”

Just as she was a great witness to the GCU family with her donation.

Overwhelming.

Contact Rick Vacek, Senior Manager for Internal Communications, at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].

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