Wake n’ Shake unites community against cancer

The annual 12-hour dance marathon will fundraise for the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund


Courtesy of Wake N Shake

Wake Forest Students dance as they celebrate the 2020 edition of Wake n’ Shake, which marked the event’s 15-year anniversary.

Breanna Laws, Staff Writer

The annual Wake ‘N Shake event is back in person for the first time since 2019. On March 19, 2022, hundreds of students will gather in the Sutton Center to “Turn the Tide” on cancer research initiatives. The program directors, seniors Lexi Colan and Jenny Foster, look forward to seeing students fully enjoying the event again.

“It really is one of the most incredible experiences as an undergrad,” Foster said.

The event is a twelve-hour dance marathon that benefits the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund. Brian Piccolo was a running back for the Wake Forest football team who passed away from cancer in 1970. Today, the fund under his name helps further innovative cancer research and has committed more than eight million dollars to the development of improved diagnostic tools and treatments.

“I feel like everyone has been touched by cancer in one way or another,” Foster said. “It definitely unifies everybody under one goal, which I think is really unique.”

Wake ‘N Shake is the largest student-run philanthropy event on campus, and this year marks the event’s fifteenth anniversary. Over the past five years, the program has raised over $300,000 with each marathon, even with the virtual format during the pandemic.

This year’s marathon will last from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. and will provide a wide variety of activities, food and speakers for students to enjoy. There is also a theme every year, with this year’s being “Turning the Tide.” On the day of the event, the Sutton Center will be packed with decorations and entertainment geared towards a beach theme. 

Every year, eight ‘champions’ are invited to the event to speak to and inspire the dancers. These champions are either survivors of cancer or individuals currently fighting Cancer.

This year, one of the speakers will be Catherine Clawson, wife of Head Football Coach Dave Clawson. Catherine is a breast cancer survivor, and she underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment in 2017. During the pandemic, her husband had to completely isolate himself from her due to concerns for her health.

“We’re super excited to hear first-person stories from people about their experiences with cancer,” Colan said. “[We get] to meet some new people, celebrate them and stand by them in their battles.”

Registration for the event is simple. All students are eligible to participate in the marathon as a group or as an individual. The fee for signing up is twenty dollars, which pays for a signature Wake ‘N Shake 2022 T-shirt, as well as lunch and dinner on the day of the event. Links to sign up can be found on the official Wake ‘N Shake webpage, (wakenshake.wfu.edu) as well as on their Instagram page.

If a student wants to participate in the fundraising efforts but can’t attend the event, there are plenty of alternative opportunities for them. Firstly, students can make donations directly through the Wake ‘N Shake webpage. The event executives are also sponsoring profit share nights with different restaurants. These events will continue to be updated on the organization’s Instagram page.

“For any area you’re involved in on campus, there are ways to fundraise, get involved or support the cause,” Colan said.

Another opportunity for students unable to attend is the all-day live stream of the marathon. Family and friends can also join the live stream to support the fundraising efforts. The link to the stream can be found on the official Wake ‘N Shake webpage.

Colan and Foster, now seniors, are a part of the last class currently on campus that got to experience an in-person Wake ‘N Shake. While they only ever got this opportunity once in their freshman year, it impacted both of them greatly and inspired them to want to become involved in the program as executive directors.

“[The event] embodies Pro Humanitate at its core,” Colan said. “I’ve had a lot of family members pass away from cancer, unfortunately, so I’m very passionate about the cause and I knew I wanted [Wake ‘N Shake] to be a part of my experience here.”

Foster has also felt passionate about the event since her freshman year. “It really made Wake Forest feel like home for the first time for me.” She describes her experience being a director as “challenging and humbling,” but also notes that “it has been…such an honor to be able to lead with these incredible people.”