Carries for the Cures up and Running
GV running back founds, organizes innovative fundraiser to combat cancer
Junior Runningback Norman Shuford slips past the offense
Football fans at Grand Valley State University will have an extra reason to cheer on the Lakers this season as the team has adopted a new fundraiser called Carries for the Cures.
The fundraiser works on a pledge system based on the team’s performance in each of its home football games. People who wish to contribute will have the opportunity to pledge a certain amount of money for the offense’s total yards, the defense’s total tackles or the team’s total points for a given home game.
For example, if a person pledges 75 cents per yard and the team puts up a total of 443 yards in its home opener Thursday against Western Oregon University, then the pledge total would be $332.25.
All proceeds will go toward cancer research and providing prosthetic limbs through various programs at the American Cancer Society.
The fundraiser was founded and organized by junior running back Norman Shuford, who said he only began planning the fundraiser about a month ago.
“This fundraiser is something that started very small and, in a couple of days, blew up because God has a purpose for it,” he said.
In order to help get things off of the ground, Shuford first met with Norman Christopher, director of the Sustainable Community Development Initiative, through a friend who had taken a Creativity and Social Entrepreneurship class with Christopher over the summer.
“I listened to him for a while, and I found out that he is just a terrific young man,” Christopher said. “And he has a personal story about why Carries for the Cures is important to him, and so do I.”
For Shuford, that personal story involves his father, Norman Shuford, Sr., and a bout with synovial sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that develops in or near major joints. In the case of Shuford’s father, it developed in the lower part of his right leg while he was in his early 20s.
“It started off as a little bump, and the doctors told him it wasn’t anything serious,” Shuford said. “As time went on, the bump just kept getting bigger and bigger. Then he went in for a check-up, and they told him ‘Oh, we have to have surgery now – this is a tumor.’”
In 1990, Shuford’s father had his leg amputated. Shuford, who described his father as his best friend, said watching him struggle to do certain things while raising his young son served as motivation to develop Carries for the Cures.
“Him taking us to the beach and not getting in the water because he didn’t want too many people to see that he had a prosthetic leg, or him not wearing shorts when it’s really hot outside,” he said. “The fight that I’ve had to watch has made me want to fight it too.”
But Shuford recently received extra incentive to push the fundraiser forward – incentive that Shuford said he would rather do without. Shuford’s father informed him that he had another lump in his right leg that would require surgery – a surgery he wishes to avoid due to the anesthetics involved.
“Another one of my family members had to have surgery and passed away because of the anesthetics,” Shuford said. “So that’s something that – it scares us.”
Upon hearing his story, Christopher went to work putting Shuford in contact with the right people to get his idea off of the ground. When he realized how much time and effort it would take to create his own student organization, Shuford turned the idea over to Savanna Rayner, an American Cancer Society community representative in Grand Rapids. She, along with her team, will handle all of the pledge forms and proceeds that go along with them throughout the season.
Rayner said Carries for the Cures carries enormous potential as a fundraiser.
“We definitely haven’t had anything quite like this,” she said. “I think this has a lot of potential, and it’s kind of a fun way to bring football together with a great cause.”
Shuford also had decisions to make concerning the details of how it would run. Initially Shuford was going to base it around himself, but upon detailing it to the team, his teammates wanted in as well.
“Cancer has affected a lot of people involved with the team,” he said. “Jerry, our equipment manager – his wife just passed away from cancer recently, so a lot of the guys wanted to take part in it.”
Natalie Cleary, president of the Student Senate at GVSU, said the Senate plans on helping by creating posters and flyers promoting the fundraiser.
“I was trying to think of the best ways that Senate can help,” she said. “We’re mostly doing publicizing and just offering him any support he needs.”
Anyone wishing to pledge an amount of money should go to www.carriesforthecures.com and fill out a pledge form.
There is no fundraising goal or projected donation total, but everyone involved recognizes the potential for growth and appreciates Shuford’s selflessness.
“It’s just so heartening, and all I did was connect a few dots,” Christopher said. “And now that the dots are connected, I’ll tell you, get out of the way … I’ve been involved with a lot projects, but I’ve never seen anything gel with interest quite like this.
We’re all going to learn from this man.”