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Sam Mills’ Keep Pounding message leaves lasting impact on Atrium Health


“It was just one of those natural things like, ‘Hey, we can both win off of this,'” Dr. Kneisl said. “Because the public loved it, they loved Sam, and they loved the Panthers. The rising tide floated all boats. Everybody won off of that. People around the country would say ‘Keep Pounding’ when they heard about the Panthers.”

The campaign continued past the bracelets. Kerr said they sold 150,000 keychains that included a hammer. Today, the campaign is going strong with many other initiatives, which includes the annual Keep Pounding 5K attended by more than 1,000 runners who have crossed a finish line inside Bank of America Stadium each year since 2010.

The campaign also includes an online memorabilia auction and the option to purchase a “Keep Pounding” license plate in both North Carolina and South Carolina.

“Every time when I’m driving around and I see a Keep Pounding license plate, it’s exciting to think about,” Kerr said. “Hopefully, in addition to being a motto for the Panthers, people still remember enough about Sam Mills to associate the chant with the fact that it’s also being used for a really great cause.”

Thanks to the initiatives, fundraisers and events across almost 20 years, the fund has helped Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute and Levine Children’s Hospital focus on supporting patients, fund novel research studies, and add cutting edge equipment and technology to fight the disease. And, in 2019, the Keep Pounding Family Center, a family and visitor center on the third floor of Levine Cancer Institute, was opened, which included a mural paying tribute to Mills and his “Keep Pounding” mantra.

Dr. Javier Oesterheld, the vice chair of clinical affairs for Atrium Health Levine Children’s and division chief of Levine Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders, said the fund has been an “integral part” of supporting research and care of its patients and survivors. He said Mills’ legacy lives on in his work at the hospital.

“I truly believe we have to continue to provide hope and novel therapies to all of the children we treat,” Dr. Oesterheld said. “In turn, keep pounding is how I approach my job every day.”

And as Dr. Kneisl reflected on his early work with the Keep Pounding Campaign, he remarked on its longevity and impact.

“It’s been among the most durable campaigns that we’ve had,” Dr. Kneisl said. “It’s (been) 20 years, and it still raises money.”



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