Wake ‘N Shake — the highly anticipated annual Wake Forest tradition and fundraiser for the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund — has had to reimagine the event for the second year in a row.
Like last year’s event, this year’s dance marathon will also not be able to occur in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic. An event that has always been defined by the gathering of over 1,400 students in the Sutton Center to dance together has had to totally change their plans and adapt to COVID-19 guidelines.
Because of the lack of COVID-19 cases on campus, this year’s event is not completely virtual, but will be hybrid.
In lieu of the usual 12-hour mass gathering, Wake ‘N Shake has instead created an entire week’s worth of fun virtual and socially distanced in-person events in which students can participate.
This year’s theme is “Togetherness,” promoting the idea that even though students cannot physically gather together as per usual, they can still unite in the fight against cancer together. Each day of the week focuses on an action that the campus community can do together. The daily themes, respectively, are “Dance Together,” “Stand Together,” “Ask Together,” “Laugh Together,” “Remember Together” and “Share Together.”
To compensate for the inability to attend Wake ‘N Shake normally, and in an effort to promote student engagement, this year’s event is highly interactive. By attending any virtual or in-person event, students can earn points, and the student with the most points by the end of the week will be able to attend the final ceremony. The ceremony will be held in person on Saturday, March 27 on Manchester Plaza. The activities that award points include a TikTok dance challenge, a 1.6 mile walk, a scavenger hunt and a luminary walk, among others. In addition, all participants will also receive a t-shirt and dinner.
“This week-long competition with an in-person reward does a great job of fostering connection, and it has already made us feel more connected than we usually do in this screens-only world,” said student director Lucy McLeod.
It was also of great importance to the Wake ‘N Shake team that all students on campus feel comfortable participating in the event. Even though campus is in Yellow operating status, it was important to the team to still include virtual events for those who did not feel comfortable attending in person.
“Aside from our points system, we have worked hard to make sure the vision of Wake ‘N Shake is communicated to everyone succinctly and clearly,” McLeod said. “We want everyone to be informed, and we have also planned a combination of completely virtual and fully in person events so that individuals with varying comfort levels and circumstances are still able to participate.”
Another unique aspect of Wake ‘N Shake is the involvement of “Champions.” Champions are individuals who have fought or are continuing to fight cancer. Each year, eight Champions are invited to attend Wake ‘N Shake and share their stories with dancers. This year, videos of Champions telling their cancer stories will be posted on Wake ‘N Shake’s Instagram.
A large scale event like Wake ‘N Shake does not just happen on its own. It takes the hard work and diligence of a team. Led by student directors and seniors Lucy Mcleod, Emma Ecklin and Paige Gallagher, the executive board has been meeting on Zoom weekly since September to bring this event to life. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly posed a challenge regarding planning because of the uncertainty of case numbers and a rotating color wheel of campus operating statuses, but through it all, the team has worked tirelessly to ensure this year’s events run smoothly.
“COVID-19 and case counts are unpredictable,” McLeod said. “So we made sure to plan and adapt for the worst-case scenario but hope for the best-case scenario.”
Despite the challenges, Wake ‘N Shake is still striving to raise money for cancer research and is determined to find new and innovative ways to bring the Wake Forest community together in support of a common cause.