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Hit the Bricks 8-hour relay honors Brian Piccolo

October 19, 2016

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A strong foundation—
WFU students, faculty run over  Pine Hall Brick pavers to raise money for cancer research

“Hit the Bricks,” an eight-hour relay race along the brick pathway of Hearn Plaza at Wake Forest University to raise money for cancer research in honor of Brian Piccolo was held Oct. 6 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. A final remembrance lap for cancer victims and survivors culminated with a luminary ceremony in front of Wait Chapel at the end of the event, which brings Wake Foresters together for a cause that long has been important to the community.

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Over the course of the eight-hour race, Wake Forest students, faculty and staff as well as friends of the University raced to see who could run the most laps around Hearn Plaza, which is laid in Pine Hall Brick clay pavers, and raise the most money.

The Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund was started by students in 1980 in memory of the Wake Forest All-American football player, Brian Piccolo, who attended Wake Forest in the 1960s, went on to become a running back for the Chicago Bears, and died in 1970 of embryonal cell carcinoma, which is closely linked to testicular cancer, at the age of 26.

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The "doughnut lap" is an added challenge!

ESPN.com reports that although Piccolo led the nation in rushing and scoring as a senior at Wake Forest in 1964, beating out two-time All-American Gale Sayers among others, he wasn’t drafted. Scouts believed the 5-foot-11, 190-pound back wasn’t big or fast enough.

The Chicago Bears signed Piccolo as a free agent. Piccolo spent a year on the Bears’ taxi squad before rushing 258 times for 927 yards and catching 58 passes for 537 yards from 1966-69. He scored four touchdowns. Although he spent four seasons with the team, he never escaped Sayers’ overwhelming shadow – and wouldn’t live long enough to achieve his dream to become a great NFL running back.

Piccolo’s relationship with Sayers was the centerpiece of “Brian’s Song,” which was made into two movies, one for television and one for theatrical release. In it, Piccolo’s mild temperament, kindness and sense of humor – along with his courageous outlook on life – were on full display.

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School landmark, Wait Chapel presides over relay.

The annual “Hit the Bricks” event is a fitting tribute to Piccolo. In 2003, the first year, 17 teams participated and raised nearly $4,000. In 2015, Hit the Bricks met its goal with 100 teams raising more than $42,000 to find a cure for cancer. This year, approximately 125 teams raised more than $47,000.
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L-R: David Ellis and Harold Beaty of Pine Hall Brick with student Brett DerGarabedian.

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All of the funds raised support the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

For more information about Hit the Bricks and the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund, please visit http://wfuhitthebricks.com.

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