Make a run on Family Weekend with Thunder Bolt

GCU students, their parents and siblings drop into the Thunderground for Family Weekend in 2016.

By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau

So how many purple GCU T-shirts, striped pajama pants, spirit bows, hoodies, mini basketballs and water bottles can your mom or dad load into a shopping basket in 1 minute?

No one knows for sure, of course, but suspicions are strong that they can do A LOT of damage and load up the SUV with enough purple to last their GCU child’s four-year career.

About 2,500 families have registered for Family Weekend 2017.

The Lope Shop shopping spree at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, appropriately dubbed the Thunder Bolt, is just one of the frenzied activities that will occupy the three-day, jam-packed Family Weekend Friday to Sunday on the GCU campus.

“Something kind of fun this year, when parents check in, at the Lope Shop (on Lopes Way), they will have a table where parents can register to win one of two $25 Lope Shop gift certificates, one of two $50 gift certificates, and one grand-prize winner will get 1 minute in the Lope Shop with Thunder to get whatever they can in those 60 seconds,” said Jeanne Lind, Parent and Family Programs Coordinator for the GCU Office of Student Engagement. “It’s called the Thunder Bolt, and it’s strictly for families that come in.”

Participants must be checked in for Family Weekend at any of the check-in booths, with one parent/guardian selected for each prize.

It isn’t the only thing going on, of course.

Another featured event is a fall festival that will pepper the campus.

“This year we have involvement with all of our clubs and organizations. They were invited to set up booths, do fundraising – just to help us do a fall festival,” Lind said. “We had more than 45 register. They will have everything from a cakewalk to … fundraisers with homemade goodies.”

The College of Fine Arts and Production, which is in the midst of rehearsals for Moliere’s “Tartuffe,” will be at the festival doling out some performances.

Tale has been told of the ultrapopular Midnight Madness on Friday, when the University kicks off the basketball season with much ado (it’s so popular that the 300 tickets reserved for families for Family Weekend have been taken). The pumped-up, electrically-charged, fan-frenzied to-do will be pirate-themed this year, with the event spilling over into the early-morning Saturday hours.

In addition to an intrasquad scrimmage, expect a show – and by a show, the University means a show, complete with pyrotechnics and blood-pumping music. Men's basketball coach Dan Majerle has even made a grand entrance via a chopper motorcycle in the past.

Not that Midnight Madness festivities will dissuade anyone from waking up Saturday morning, maybe not so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, in order to attend yet another popular event of the weekend, when President Brian Mueller delivers a Chapel message at GCU Arena.

Parents attend Chapel with their GCU students during Family Weekend 2016.

“Chapel is our most highly attended event," Lind said. “… Brian speaks, so that’s a draw for families.”

Also look for a nine-hole shotgun golf tournament (the tournament has reached capacity) and a cheer and dance clinic – both made their debut last year – along with bowling, walking tours, a family kickball tournament, a slew of club athletic games, a movie on the lawn (“Despicable Me” Friday night on the Grove lawn), and even a concert Saturday night at GCU Arena by Christian artist Jeremy Camp.

There are no Division I soccer games on the schedule for Family Weekend this year. “However, I’m really excited there are going to be three club soccer games," Lind added. "There’s a club men’s rugby scrimmage and two GCU softball games. We’ll be highlighting some of our club sports.”

About 2,500 reservations have been made for Family Weekend, which translates to about 4,000 expected to participate in this activity-filled convergence when you count parents – moms and dads of mostly freshmen and sophomores -- and other family members.

“We had no idea we’d have so many registrations by phone,” Lind said of taking phone registrations after online sign-up had closed.

That doesn’t include the volunteers, from the small but dedicated Parent Council to about 40 Canyon Christian Schools Consortium members who will be out and about for Saturday’s Thunder Run Family 5K. Family Weekend has grown every year to match the tremendous growth of the University. In 2008, GCU was home to about 900 students on campus; today, that number is about 19,000 students.

One of the activities for Family Weekend is the Lil Lopes Cheer and Dance Clinic.

“We always do it about six weeks in (six weeks into the fall semester),” Lind said. “This is kind of the time students have settled in. They haven’t seen their parents since Welcome Week.”

It’s a chance for the University to not only showcase athletics and various organizations, but restaurants, arts and spiritual life, and new construction – a peek at things yet to come for the campus.

The goal is simple: to embrace parents into the GCU community.

“The purpose is to provide a welcoming environment,” Lind said. “Parents can connect with our students and get a taste of our culture. … My prayer has always been that families feel welcomed and that they have some good, quality time with their students.”

While online and phone registration has closed, walk-in registrations are welcome, with payment taken at check-in.

Jada Ward, Caleb Palmen and Danaysha Smith (from left), student leaders for Lopes Connection Crew and New Student Family Programs, spent a few hours Tuesday afternoon putting together hundreds of welcome bags for Family Weekend Friday to Sunday on the GCU campus.

Family Weekend highlights


7:30 a.m.: Nine-hole shotgun golf tournament (the tournament has reached capacity).

10 a.m.-8 p.m.: Check-in at the promenade, south of the Student Union

10 a.m.-4 p.m.: Parent Hospitality Corner, Thunder Alley

11 a.m.-2 p.m.: Academic departments open house

Noon-4 p.m.: Family bowling, Thunderground

1-4 p.m.: Guided walking tours

6:30 p.m.: GCU softball vs. Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, GCU Softball Field

7 p.m.: Club men’s soccer vs. Arizona State University, Prescott Field

8 p.m.: Movie on the Lawn, “Despicable Me 3,” Grove lawn

11:15 p.m.: Doors open for Family Weekend reserved ticket guests for Midnight Madness, GCU Arena (no more Family Weekend tickets available)


6 a.m.-5 p.m.: Check-in, promenade, south of the Student Union

7 a.m.: Thunder Run 5K, north side of Building 26. Check-in starts at 6 a.m.

9:30 a.m.: Doors open for Chapel worship, with Chapel starting at 10:15 a.m. (registration required)

11 a.m.: Club men’s soccer vs. Arizona Christian University, Prescott Field

11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.: Fall Festival

11:45 a.m.-2 p.m.: Lil Lopes Cheer and Dance Clinic, Lopes Recreation Center

Noon-1 p.m.: Walking campus tours departing from the College of Education patio

1 p.m.: Club men’s rugby vs. University of Arizona, soccer practice field

1-5 p.m.: Family bowling, Thunderground

1:30 p.m.: Thunder Bolt at the Lope Shop

3 p.m.: Family kickball tournament, Prescott Field

5 p.m.: GCU softball vs. South Mountain Community College, GCU Softball Field

7 p.m.: Jeremy Camp concert, GCU Arena (This is a public ticketed GCU Arena event not hosted by Family Weekend)


5 p.m.: Club men's soccer vs. University of Arizona, Prescott Field

Contact Lana Sweeten-Shults at (602) 639-7901 or [email protected].


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