Whatever the outcome on the football field this Friday, both teams can already chalk up one “win” in the University of Virginia’s annual rivalry game with Virginia Tech.
As their teams prepare to face each other on Scott Stadium’s football field, members of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity chapters from both schools came together last week for their annual “Run Across Virginia,” taking turns to run the game ball about 160 miles from Blacksburg to Charlottesville.
The run raises money for the V Foundation, founded in honor of the late basketball coach and broadcaster Jim Valvano to fund cancer research. Since the inaugural run in 2003, Run Across Virginia has raised more than $500,000 for the foundation.
On Friday, fraternity members from Virginia Tech carried the game ball as they ran from Blacksburg to Lynchburg. There, they handed it off to UVA fraternity members, who started around midnight and ran through the night on U.S. 29 to reach Scott Stadium on Saturday morning. They will present the game ball – and a check for the Jimmy V Foundation – before kickoff on Friday.
Typically, the run takes place the day before the big game. However, because the UVA-Virginia Tech game is on Friday instead of Saturday this year, the fraternities decided to run the week before so that members could spend Thanksgiving at home.
Fourth-year student Henry Pollard, who managed this year’s run for the UVA chapter, said the event is a great way for fraternity members to spend time together and raise money for a good cause.
“It’s pretty special,” Pollard said, noting that many fraternity members or their families have been directly impacted by cancer. “It’s a cool event, and a great way to get everyone together.”
Two police cars escorted the runners while a bus followed carrying fresh runners ready to take their turns, along with plenty of water and snacks. In all, about 45 UVA students participated this year, along with the students from Virginia Tech. Each one had spent time this fall fundraising and securing sponsorships for the run, in order to raise as much money as possible for the V Foundation.
Typically, Pollard said, the UVA chapter raises about $20,000 through donations and an auction of donated gift cards and other prizes, to be held in the spring. This year, they have set a fundraising goal of $30,000.
“It’s our most ambitious fundraising goal yet,” Pollard said.
In the 15 years they have been doing the run, the fraternity’s brothers have collectively run more than 2,000 miles through mountainous territory that, while beautiful, is not exactly a walk in the park. They have garnered local, regional and national coverage, including several segments on ESPN, which founded the V Foundation with Valvano in 1993.
Katie Sweet, the communications manager at the V Foundation, called the Run Across Virginia “an incredible and unique way to raise money for cancer research.”
“We are so impressed with Phi Gamma Delta’s annual Run Across Virginia and the more than $500,000 they have raised,” Sweet said. “Their creativity and hard work is making a significant impact on the work doctors and scientists are doing every day.”
Valvano, a basketball player, coach and broadcaster known for leading underdog North Carolina State University to a national championship in 1983, created the foundation in the final months of his life as he battled glandular cancer. Since then, the foundation has awarded more than $200 million in cancer research grants.
That’s a cause that both ’Hoos and Hokies can get behind, no matter their differences on the football field.
That being said – Go ’Hoos!