The following article was published in the Altoona Mirror on July 31, 2011:
HOLLIDAYSBURG Griff’s Run & Gun for a Cure 3-on-3 basketball tournament is about so much more than basketball.
It’s about a community coming together to support one its own and raise money to fight the devastating disease Greg Griffith has been fighting for the past year-and-a-half.
Griffith has always loved playing basketball, so, not long after the Hollidaysburg man was diagnosed with stage-4 pancreatic cancer in February 2010, a basketball tournament was put together to raise funds to fight the disease.
A dinner/auction was added, and the effort raised about $30,000 last year. Organizers are shooting for $50,000 this year.
“We threw everything together last year in about six weeks,” committee member and family friend Brent Ottaway said. “We weren’t building the bridge as we walked on it this year so that’s helped a little.”
Ottaway said that when he and others learned “just how nasty pancreatic cancer is,” they thought a basketball tournament would be a good way to raise money and bring attention to the disease, the Griffiths and anybody else in the same situation.
“I’ve played in a lot of 3-on-3 tournaments, but what I really like about this one is the community spirit. We’re all playing a game we enjoy, but there’s an underlying cause that’s an important one,” he said. “Pancreatic cancer is the most lethal of the 10 most common cancers yet receives comparatively little funding or attention.”
The second annual Griff’s Run & Gun for a Cure opened Friday night with nearly 570 people attending a dinner/auction at The Casino and wrapped up Saturday with 57 teams playing in a basketball tournament on the courts of the Hollidaysburg Area YMCA.
“It’s very humbling that a bunch of our friends put something like this together,” Griffith’s younger son, Jamie, said. “Last year, I was somewhat surprised by how much money was raised, but this year I’m totally amazed at how many people have come out and supported our cause.”
Jamie Griffith said his father is “hanging in there and still fighting,” but the past two months have been difficult.
“It’s pretty much full-throttle pancreatic cancer right now. We’re getting through it as a family. Community support like this really helps,” he said. “We’ve truly been blessed to have these past 18 months together. We cherish every moment.”
A stage-4 pancreatic cancer prognosis is typically much shorter than 18 months.
“It’s usually a matter of weeks, but 18 months later, he’s still hanging in there,” committee member and family friend Booker Moore said.
“Pancreatic cancer isn’t as well-known about nationally as other cancers. For one reason there isn’t a celebrity-type spokesperson for it because most people die very quickly from it,” Moore said. “There’s no known test for it, no known cure and most of the dollars go to other cancers.”
Moore added that the Greg and Kathy Griffith Family Foundation was recently created to raise additional money for pancreatic cancer research.
“This will allow us to hold various events throughout the year,” he said.
Griffith’s health cut short his appearance at Friday’s dinner/auction, but he had a pre-recorded message that was played for the crowd.
“He said he wanted his generation to go down as the own that cures cancer so that it doesn’t plague the kids and grandkids,” Jamie Griffith said.
After playing in last year’s tournament, he was unable to do so this year.
“He wanted to come but just couldn’t,” his older son, Jordan, said. “Last year, dad was able to play. It was really nice. He got to play with his two sons and brother-in-law. We were able to win the family division, but I think they kind of gave it to us.”