The following article was published in the Altoona Mirror on August 14, 2010:
Greg Griffith said he was trying his best to stay emotionally detached, but that it was impossible not to be overwhelmed when such a huge group of people are supporting you in a difficult time.
“You know, of the 470 people that have come here tonight, I’d consider a really high percentage of them to be close friends,” Griffith said of the larger-than-expected turnout for a benefit fundraiser dinner for pancreatic cancer research, a disease for which he is currently battling and undergoing chemotherapy treatment. “From day one, when I was diagnosed in February, these people have been there for my family and me.”
The dinner, which took place Friday night at The Casino at Lakemont Park, was the first of a two-part event this weekend called “Griff’s Run & Gun For a Cure.” The second is a 3-on-3 basketball tournament that begins today at 9 a.m. at the Hollidaysburg Area YMCA.
benefit: 47 teams are registered
The events started out as a modest effort by Griffifth’s friends to organize a small dinner of about 200 people and a tournament with “20 or so” teams said Brent Ottaway, a friend of Griffith and one of the weekend organizers. Instead, they had to stop selling tickets for the dinner at 470 and have 47 teams registered for this morning’s tournament, according to Ottaway.
One of Griffith’s two sons, Jaime Griffith, said the initially unexpected turnout meant a lot to his family as he greeted dinner attendees while they made their way into the dining room. He added that they were planning on making it a yearly event.
“Next year, though, we’re hoping to make it even bigger,” he said.
One of the guest speakers at the event, Dr. James Moser, the co-director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Pancreatic Cancer Center, said the amount of support and the organization of the dinner was “unbelievable.” “We try to come out to these often, because it’s a very big part of our effort to combat this terrible disease and, and no one does it this well their first time,” Moser said. “It just goes to show the outpouring of love and respect this community has for Greg [Griffith]. He’s a very special man.”
By the end of the weekend, Griffith said he hopes he and his friends will be able to hand a check to Dr. Moser for $20-25,000, all of it to help Moser — who is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on pancreatic cancer — with his research.
“I just can’t express how very, very grateful we are,” he said. “I know this community won’t rest until we have a cure for pancreatic cancer.”
Greg Griffith received a standing ovation after dinner and told the attendees he was humbled.
Pastor John Leatherman, of Duncansville said he befriended Greg Griffith — who was a standout basketball player during his days at Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School — by playing morning basketball together at the YMCA, and was there for “Greg [Griffith] foremost, and cancer research, too.”
“To me, they’re both very important,” he said.