“It was just one of those natural things like, ‘Hey, we can both win from this,'” said Dr. Kneisl. “Because the public loved it, they loved Sam and they loved the Panthers. The rising tide floated all boats. Everybody benefited from it. People all over the country said ‘Keep beating’ when they heard about the Panthers.”
The campaign continued after the bracelets. Kerr said they sold 150,000 key chains that included a hammer. Today, the campaign is going strong with many other initiatives, including the Keep Pounding 5K featuring more than 1,000 runners who have crossed the finish line inside Bank of America Stadium every year since 2010.
The campaign also includes an online memorabilia auction and the option to purchase a North Carolina and South Carolina “Keep Pounding” license plate.
“Every time I’m driving 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 of Sam Mills to associate the song with the fact that it’s also being used for a really great cause.”
Through initiatives, fundraisers and events for nearly 20 years, the fund has helped Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute and Levine Children’s Hospital focus on patient support, fund new research studies and add state-of-the-art equipment and technology to fight the disease. And, in 2019, the Keep Pounding Family Center opened, a family and visitor center on the third floor of the Levine Cancer Institute that included a mural paying tribute to Mills and his “Keep Pounding” mantra.
Dr. Javier Oesterheld, vice president 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 for its patients and survivors. He said Mills’ legacy lives on in his work at the hospital.
“I truly believe that we must continue to offer hope and new therapies to all the children we treat,” said Dr. Oesterheld. “On the other hand, keep pounding is how I approach my job every day.”
And while Dr. Reflecting on his early work with the Keep Pounding Campaign, Kneisl noted its longevity and impact.
“It’s been among the most consistent campaigns we’ve had,” said Dr. Kneisl. “It’s (been) 20 years and I’m still collecting money.”