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Wake Forest students break $1 million mark for Brian Piccolo Cancer Fund


May 27, 2009

Wake ‘N Shake, the Wake Forest University dance marathon, helped students exceed the $1 million mark this spring for total donations to the Brian Piccolo Cancer Fund.  

Established in 1980 by student leaders, the Brian Piccolo Cancer Fund Drive is the longest-running student philanthropy project at Wake Forest University.  Brian Piccolo was a Wake Forest football player and graduate as well as a Chicago Bears football star who died of cancer at the age of 26.  For the past 29 years, students have chosen to remember Brian Piccolo’s inspirational life and make their own personal connection to fighting cancer through their participation in many fundraising activities.  All the money raised by the students goes directly to the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.  

"Cancer patients in our community and throughout the nation have benefited from the efforts, generosity and leadership of the students at Wake Forest who have worked tirelessly to support cancer research and the memory of Brian Piccolo,” said Dr. Frank Torti, director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center and professor of medicine at the Wake Forest School of Medicine.  “The Comprehensive Cancer Center of Wake Forest University is profoundly indebted to a generation ofWake Forest students who have worked on behalf of cancer patients."

Johnny Dawkins founded the Brian Piccolo Cancer Fund Drive while a student at Wake Forest.  “I am thrilled to learn the Brian Piccolo Fund Drive passed the one million dollar mark. It is definitely a “Wow” moment for me,” he said.  “I am very proud to have started this fund drive in 1980 in memory of an outstanding football player and an incredible human being.”  Dawkins said the first fundraisers included T-shirt sales, concerts and screenings of “Brian’s Song,” the movie about Piccolo.

In its inaugural year, the Brian Piccolo Cancer Fund Drive raised $3,500 for cancer research, and each successive year has seen increases in both community involvement and monies raised.  Students raised more than $80,000 during the 2008-09 academic year through fundraising events including Hit the Bricks for Brian, the Chi Omega Auction, the Birdies for Brian golf tournament, Pump Up for Piccolo and the Wake ‘N Shake dance marathon.  These dollars, combined with the $921,000 raised in previous years, put the total student donations to the Brian Piccolo Cancer Fund above the $1 million mark.  

After tallying up the year’s donations to the fund, organizers determined that Wake ‘N Shake was the event that crossed the $1 million threshold.  More than 300 students participated in the 12-hour dance marathon on April 4 in Reynolds Gymnasium.  Live music, team competitions, various performances, games and testimonials from cancer survivors helped the Wake ‘N Shake participants stay on their feet to raise awareness and money for cancer research.  The dancing students were able to collect more than $35,000 in donations to fight cancer through the Brian Piccolo Cancer Fund.  

“Throughout the day, we were overwhelmed by the excitement and dedication of the dancers,” said Haley David, a senior majoring in psychology from Easley, S.C., and co-chair of Wake ‘N Shake.  “As the final hour of the event counted down, we could feel the sense of accomplishment emanating from committee members and dancers alike.  We could not be more proud of the tremendous efforts of those involved in this landmark event.”

“The Brian Piccolo Cancer Fund is an organization to which every student is connected,” said Caleigh Jooste, a 2009 Wake Forest graduate in psychology from Villanova, Pa., and co-chair of Wake ‘N Shake.  “Each and every one of us has been affected by cancer and so we have been coming together as students for 29 years to fight against this terrible disease.  To break the million-dollar mark has been monumental for both our campus and its history.  It is an exciting moment at Wake Forest because we are confident in the innovative and groundbreaking research being conducted at the Comprehensive Cancer Center."

Press Contacts:

Audrey Fannin
(336) 758-5237


Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237


Wake Forest students participate in a previous Wake N' Shake dance marathon.
Wake Forest students participate in a previous Wake N' Shake dance marathon.
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