Wake’s Hit the Bricks event raises six figures for cancer research

Over 1,000 participants came out to Hearn Plaza to participate in the 2021 Hit the Bricks event.

Wake’s Hit the Bricks event raises six figures for cancer research
October 13
13:58 2021

Students, staff, alumni and others took over Hearn Plaza on Sept. 30 for Wake Forest’s annual Hit the Bricks event to raise money for the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund.

From 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. participants ran or walked laps around the quad to show their solidarity in their fight against cancer. Along with the runners and walkers circling the quad, there was live music, food, gifts and special guest speakers throughout the day.  

This is the 18th year of the event and the first in person since 2019, so everyone was excited to get back outside and run some laps. Planning for the event began all the way back in January with senior director Louis Morrel, who has been a part of Hit the Bricks since his freshman year. Raising money for a cure is especially important for him due to losing a family member to the disease.

“My fraternal grandmother passed away from cancer my first month in college, right around the time Hit the Bricks happened,” said Morrel. “I believe it was before Hit the Bricks, and I came back to Hit the Bricks, and obviously raising money for cancer now had a personal connection. It just makes you want to be out there even more.

“It’s not just me, I can promise you that 80% to 90% of people out there have some personal connection or reason why they are out there running. Obviously, everyone is out there to compete and try to win, but also to raise money for cancer research and be out there to run and be with friends is a great event for the whole Wake Forest community.”

Morrel and Brad Shugoll, associate director of service and leadership in the office of civic & community engagement and staff advisor for Hit the Bricks, were the initial team that started the planning for the event. Several other members joined as the weeks went on and Morrel says they were the “most creative and energetic bunch” he has ever worked with for Hit the Bricks.

“They really wanted to go after it this year and kind of rethink the event, because having a year off for COVID, we kind of had to rethink some things,” he said. “It’s crazy to think that back in January it was just me and Brad and now we are here with 38 people running this event. It’s been an awesome experience and glad to be out here today and see it’s all running smoothly.”

The team with the most laps wins Hit the Bricks. To help incentivize people to fundraise, the money you raise goes into your lap total. Not every team is there to compete to win, but would rather come out to have fun and fellowship with friends.

“Whatever kind of lane you see yourself in with Hit the Bricks, there’s a way for you to participate essentially,” Morrell continued.

Morrel says it gives him a great deal of satisfaction knowing that so many people have enjoyed the event, especially with all of the hard work he and others put in to make it happen.  

“Having people who bought into an event you were in charge of leading is such a good feeling, from not only a senior director perspective, but from a planning committee perspective,” stated Morrel. “We put on this event and we hope people care. Obviously it’s for cancer research, but to see that there is like a select group of amazing teams that really care and really want to be there and support your event is awesome to see.”

This is the fifth year that Shugoll has assisted with Hit the Bricks and says one of their goals coming in was to press the limits when it comes to size of the event and number of donations. He says he enjoys working with such passionate students for a worthy cause such as a cure for cancer.

“I have been here six years and I am excited every year, because it’s a new group of students that have this passion and energy that carry this event forward,” said Shugoll. “So, it really is inspiring to see the students take the lead and then the rest of the community come on board.”

There was a push to recruit more individuals into this year’s event instead of the focus being placed on teams.  According to Shugoll, that approach has driven the number of participants to well over 1,000 and they expected the fundraising to reflect that as well.

The intensity level and commitment from some of the participants was admirable. Some came out just to support, while others came out to win, but the goal for everyone was to raise money to help fight cancer.

“I heard a lot of people talking about it the last few weeks, so I thought it would be cool to come out and see how I could help,” said Jennifer Odom. “I didn’t have a team or anything, I just thought this was a great cause to come out and celebrate.”

Wake Forest staff members also came out to support the event as well. Camry Wilborn, assistant director for community partnerships for the office of civic and community engagement, recently lost a loved one to cancer, so this event hits home for her.

“I’ve participated in Hit the Bricks in the past as a staff person because our office runs the program, but this year it felt a little bit more personal to be out here and participate in an event like this,” Wilborn stated. “My grandfather unfortunately passed away in July from cancer and so being out here raising money for cancer research that helped him, but could also help another family member, is really close to my heart.”

The event concluded with a final lap where everyone came together and in silence walked a lap to reflect on the day’s events and the impact that cancer has had on them or someone they know. Everyone gathered in front of Wait Chapel and heard from those who have personally dealt with the effects of cancer. 

The 2021 Hit the Bricks raised over $200,000 for the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund. Piccolo was an All-American football player who attended Wake Forest in the 1960s and he eventually went on to play for the Chicago Bears. Piccolo died from embryonal cell carcinoma at age 26 in 1970. 

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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