Students established the Piccolo Fund Drive in 1980 in memory of the former Demon Deacon and NFL football star whose professional career was cut short due to cancer. Piccolo died in June 1970 at age 26 from embryonal cell carcinoma, an aggressive form of germ cell testicular cancer. His story was captured in the movie Brian’s Song.
Through several philanthropic events held each year, students raise proceeds for cancer treatment and research at the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center (WFBMC). As an advanced cancer treatment facility, the Center was ranked 19th in the nation and 1st in North Carolina by U.S. News and World Report. The Fund supports innovative cancer research through investing in early stage projects and seed funding.
Since inception Wake Forest student leaders have raised over
$3 million dollars for the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund.
Our most recent donations have supported the following:
Supported the clinical trial phase of a new drug for pancreatic cancer. Early results during the trial show an increase in survivor-ship by months, possibly years.
Seed funded the Hispanic Patient Navigator position, which has proved instrumental in improving patient access to care and increasing clinical trial participation.
Supported the purchase of nanoparticle generation and detection equipment, which lead to increased funding for cancer research projects.
During the fund’s inaugural year (1980), students brought in $3,500. Amounts raised have increased each year as community involvement has grown. By 2009, total fundraising surged past the $1 million mark. That year, students received the Outstanding Youth/College Achievement Award by the N.C. Triad Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
As of 2019, lifetime giving to the fund has passed $3 million. Most recently, Piccolo funds seeded an effort to increase our understanding of leading-edge regenerative medicine and how we might use tumor organoids in research and personalized oncology.
Each year, the group of Wake Forest University students who lead the Piccolo Fundraisers tour the Comprehensive Cancer Center to visit with clinicians and researchers and learn more about the impact of their philanthropy. Students get a behind the scenes look at the work going on and become familiar with the scope of clinical and research expertise.
The money is raised through our signature events: Hit The Bricks, Wake N’ Shake, and Pump Up for Piccolo as well as the Chi Omega Parking Spot Raffle and Auction. Each year, student leaders present their annual contribution during an ACC men’s basketball game.