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Having a ball, even in tough times: Emory family sticks together to pursue world record
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Moricle with the sticker ball

Julie, Wade and Sofie Moricle with their giant sticker ball. The ball has been weighed and submitted to Guinness World Records. The family started the project before the pandemic, but it served as a welcome distraction during lockdowns and during Wade Moricle’s cancer diagnosis and recovery.

— Kay Hinton, Emory Photo/Video

In September 2022, Wade Moricle, a marketing and communications specialist for the Office of Information Technology at Emory University, rolled a sticker ball into Avondale Estate’s City Hall to formally weigh the creation before submitting it to the Guinness Book of World Records.

The scale read 624.6 pounds, more than 300 pounds heavier than the 2020 record holder. 

Started four years earlier, the ball helped carry the Moricle family through tumultuous times, including a global pandemic coupled with stage 3 colon cancer and subsequent treatments.

Getting the ball rolling

It all started when Moricle’s daughter Sofie (who was 10 at the time but is now in ninth grade) approached her parents after attending a school book fair.

Sofie Moricle poses with the sticker ball on April 1, 2019. With 5,521 stickers, it weighed just 3.0 pounds.

Wade Moricle

“She was in the fifth grade when she came home and said, ‘We’re going to break a record.’ She opened up the Guinness Book of World Records and showed me the world’s largest ball of stickers. It was 240 pounds,” Moricle says. “I laughed and said we wouldn’t be doing that. Then my wife, Julie, asked me why I would crush Sofie’s dreams.” 

Predicting that this project would quickly lose its luster, Moricle helped get the ball rolling by purchasing several sheets of stickers at a time. This tactic got the project to the size of a softball, but it still weighed less than a pound — a problem, since the record is based on weight rather than the number of stickers or circumference. 

“I researched the current record holder and came to find out he owns a sticker company. They were using vinyl stickers, like what you’d see on a bumper or a sign,” Moricle says. “Those stickers have a lot of weight and adhesive. So I started thinking about how I could get my hands on some for free.” 

He took two approaches.

First, he asked his Emory community for any spare stickers and received old floppy disc stickers and thousands of unusable barcode stickers from the libraries. Then, in August 2019, he stopped by the Signarama in Avondale Estates and asked if there were any waste stickers he could have. 

Turns out, he was doing them a favor. Signarama isn’t able to throw excess stickers in the garbage — the vinyl isn’t biodegradable and the adhesive gums up the trucks. It was a win-win for everybody.

A project that stuck

“When your daughter first engages in something like this, it’s just a fun and silly thing that a kid is doing,” Moricle says. “You don’t expect her to have the wherewithal to complete it. Even when it weighed 50 pounds I figured it would stop at any moment.”

Then March 2020 rolled around and Moricle, like many others, was suddenly sequestered in his house. The project gained momentum.

“You’re in the pandemic and looking for things to do together within your home. It was valuable in that it let us spend time sitting and talking, something that’s lost in this age of constant information,” he says. 

In January 2021, as the pandemic continued, Moricle was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer.  “During that time, it was therapeutic, an opportunity for me to do something that I could accomplish,” he says. “When you’re used to being someone who can put things on the top shelf and work in the yard and enjoy your job, then your strength is taken away and your brain is working more slowly, it can be difficult to keep a good attitude to recover.” 

To keep track of the stickers, each paper backing was thrown into a large bowl and counted at the end of the week. That bowl gave Moricle concrete evidence of his daily accomplishments, helping keep his spirits high.

“I was experiencing my first depression when I was going through the pandemic and cancer, and the ball definitely helped scare away the demons in the back recesses of my brain.” 

Moricle also tracked the ball’s weight as it grew. By his calculations, they broke the world record on Dec. 15, 2021.

“What I told myself at this point was we’d just add about 50 more pounds of stickers and let Guinness know, then we’d be done,” he recalls. 

But on Dec. 23, Moricle was told his tumor had returned and he needed major resection surgery in January 2022. He couldn’t move the ball to weigh it during the subsequent recovery period — but he could add more stickers to it.

Winning approaches at Winship Cancer Institute

“It’s funny, you know about Winship Cancer Institute from working here at Emory, but you never think cancer is going to come to you,” Moricle says. “You get that first colonoscopy and it’s a party, there’s music and the providers are telling all these jokes. Then they find out you have cancer and it’s not a party anymore.”

The sticker from Moricle’s surgery to remove a tumor. “I wrote ‘Cancer Free’ with a Sharpie, but I was actually at the front end of the hard part — recovery,” says Moricle.

Wade Moricle

While hearing his diagnosis was traumatic, Moricle says he found comfort in knowing that Winship has a tremendous reputation. His providers walked him through his upcoming program and chances of coming through cancer-free.

“They didn’t make it sound like it wasn’t going to be a problem,” he explains, “but they told me the truth and kept my eyes open.”

Moricle has nothing but praise for the health care providers on the Winship staff, which he described as a well-oiled machine that also never felt impersonal. “Every nurse made me feel like I was in the arms of a system that was going to take care of me,” he says.

While many people who receive a cancer diagnosis will seek out multiple doctors for several opinions, that process is baked into Winship’s approach.

“Winship providers have a weekly collaboration meeting among oncologists and they talk about each case,” Moricle says. “Then, the board talks about the treatment approach and determines if they’re all in agreement or if there are other options available. You’re getting the benefit of multiple opinions, every time, and it helps garner additional trust with your providers.”

Moricle was also able to tap into the Emory Proton Therapy Center, which uses lasers to pinpoint radiation on a specific tumor spot. This therapy requires an application and Moricle chose to participate in a multi-institutional registry study. The registry study allows providers to maintain periodic, long-term contact after treatment ends to better understand the benefits of proton therapy, develop additional evidence supporting proton therapy in various conditions and inform better decisions about types of future treatments.

Leaning on his community

Moricle possesses a rare skill set: While he has a computer science degree and has worked in IT for years, he’s also a natural-born storyteller and writer. “I have the ability to translate nerd speak into people speak, and I love doing that for Emory — telling the story of IT and marketing our services to faculty and staff,” he says.

That combination emboldened him to be upfront about his diagnosis with coworkers, family, friends and neighbors.

“That was the best thing I could’ve done,” he says. “Everyone really reached out and showed me a tremendous amount of love. My work rallied around me, and I had so many colleagues who would come visit me at my home and participate in the meal train, helping my wife as she took care of me. I have nothing but praise and love for the Emory community and my colleagues.” The Emory community runs particularly deep in the Moricle household — Julie is also an employee at Rollins School of Public Health.

After diagnosis, treatment and surgery, Moricle advises Emory employees to tap into their benefits. “I’ve been a walking PSA for colonoscopies ever since this experience,” he laughs. 

“Take advantage of the fact that we work for a world-changing university and a system that is so good and so forward-thinking with the way it handles its medical practices. When you’re relatively healthy you tend not to go to the doctor. Ultimately, if I had that mentality, I wouldn’t have been fine,” he says. 

Making it official 

Thanks to the pandemic, Guinness currently isn’t sending representatives to adjudicate record attempts. In order to certify the sticker ball, Moricle had to fill out a 32-page application (including affidavits) and weigh it in a public space.

The Moricle family, Wade, Sofie and Julie, pose with the 600-pound sticker ball Sofie started at church with a couple rolled up stickers four years ago before a weighing ceremony for the 2024 Guinness Book of World Records during the Avondale Estates City Commission meeting on Sept. 28, 2022.

Dean Hesse, Decaturish,

After taking his back door off its hinges to roll the ball through, Moricle transported it to City Hall, where he and Sofie added roughly 40 more pounds of stickers — including those carefully selected for the outermost layer — during the three days before the Avondale Estates City Commission meeting on Sept. 28, 2022.

It weighed in at 624.6 pounds with a count of 202,510 stickers and a circumference of more than 8 feet.

“It’s way too big to get back into my house, so it’s in my garage next to the lawnmower,” Moricle laughs. 

Now, the proverbial ball is in Guinness’ court. 

“If someone else breaks the record, we’re not going to do another push,” Moricle says. 

He adds with a wink, “I must admit we still enjoy adding stickers now and then. The ball is probably closer to 650 pounds today.”

“It was something to get us through a dark time in our lives, which included a pandemic and stage 3 cancer. In the end, the family stuck together and we came through it on the other side. This is a symbol of all of that.”

Video created by Wade Moricle. Photos used with permission.

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