Close the Gap: A Team of Runners Committed to Taking Cancer Down

Seventeen years ago, a small group of colleagues with a shared love of running had a big idea. They wanted to form a group that would participate in races around the country while making a positive impact with every mile. From that idea came “Close the Gap,” a team of runners fiercely committed to fundraising for cancer research.

“We started this team for cancer. It’s near and dear to us, and in all our years, it’s always gone to cancer research,” said Nolan Pike, a founding member of Close the Gap. Since their start in 2007, the team has grown, but also lost participants and family members to cancer, adding to the urgency for this cause.

Close the Gap has participated in races nationwide throughout the years, never wavering from their primary goal: raise money for cancer research. In total, the team has raised nearly $1 million for research organizations, highlighting how a group of friends filled with both dedication and hope can make a true difference in the future of cancer research.

Three years ago, the team returned to one of their favorite races – the famous Hood to Coast Relay in Oregon, which brings together teams of 8 to 12 runners who relay nearly 200 miles across the state from the top of Mt. Hood to the beaches of the Pacific Ocean.  In 2023, the team established their first official V Foundation DIY Fundraiser for Hood to Coast, raising over $109,000, their highest fundraising year to date.

For both Nolan and co-founder Jerry Wolff, the V Foundation’s focus on awarding grants to the most innovative research in the nation was incredibly personal as they had stood alongside their spouses in their cancer battles.

“Tonya’s cancer was really rare,” said Nolan of his wife’s diagnosis of an aggressive form of breast cancer. “They didn’t have cures or research on it. So when you hear the V Foundation is working on odd and peculiar cancers, it’s so important because you never know when you’ll need help.”

Tonya, a passionate V Foundation advocate and supporter, passed away in September 2022. Nolan, Jerry, and the entire team continue running and fundraising to honor Tonya and the many other families who have faced this disease.

“Almost every year, it amazes me when I ask people to donate. When they donate, they tell me thank you,” said Jerry. “And it really makes me feel like I’m not only doing this for my family, but for all these other people.”

While the team isn’t concerned about running the fastest or placing on the podium of each race, they are competitive when it comes to fundraising and creating a world where no person hears the news of a cancer diagnosis.

“I’m not going to cure it by myself. I can just cure it with my efforts and trust in all the people that work for the V Foundation, and that the doctors and research that they’re funding is the right thing,” said Nolan. “Cancer is far more prevalent than it used to be, but less people pass away from cancer. We’re beating cancer. And for that to continue, you have to invest in research.”

As a team, Close the Gap has run thousands of miles and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars with an ardent commitment to beating this disease, and they have no plans of stopping until that goal is achieved.

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