Wake ‘N Shake, or WNS for short, began in 2006 as a small gathering of 300 students to raise around $30,000 for the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund.
As of this past Saturday, the 11th annual iteration of the 12-hour dance marathon, 1,325 students participated to raise a total of $284,418.54, a number that will continue to increase until the end of the Spring semester.
“We are beyond thrilled,” Lydia Pappas, one of three overall co-chairs, said. “It’s $120,000 more than last year’s day-of total.”
The event was not just dancing, though. Students could also play basketball, have fun on a bouncy slide and even joust their friends. The main goal was to keep everybody active — that is, not sitting down. The dancing is just the best part.
It’s so much fun that, as part of the festivities, event organizers and morale team members teach participants a special choreographed dance in between different theme hours — such as an entire rave — and even yoga sessions.
At points throughout the day, one of eight “champions” — people from the community who fought and survived cancer — spoke to the crowd. One such champion, Julie Gupton, shared her story of fighting ovarian cancer, citing the money raised at Wake ‘N Shake for helping her win her battle.
Many of the speakers encouraged students to take care of their bodies in various ways — from exercising to getting yearly checkups and mammograms for both sexes. The theme of the day, though, was fighting cancer every way possible and showing support for those fighting and survivors of cancer alike.
“It was incredibly sweet to hear from each of the eight champions,” freshman Larisa Hanger said. “What an inspiration.”
Organizing the event wasn’t easy, though, but it wasn’t impossible, co-chair Colin Johnson said. “We were basically planning it out over the summer since we all happened to be in the same city. Our new website has been a huge part of our success this year. It was just so much easier than in past years because of the site.”
All three co-chairs cited the registration process as a major glitch in previous years, but due to the new site, designed by Nick Ladd, things were much smoother. The randomization and optionalization of teams also helped, Pappas said. “This allowed students, faculty, staff and all people from the Winston-Salem community to register and not feel categorized or excluded in any way. We think this helped increase participation and, in turn, the donation total.”
One last important aspect of this year’s success was the addition of dancer “profile pages” — pages for each individual participating in Wake ‘N Shake that participants could link to on their Facebook pages in order for distant relatives or friends at other schools to click on and look at, resulting in increased awareness of the event and even more donations.
“These pages include a bio, donation bar and a funny picture of each dancer, but they also include a little paragraph about why the person is dancing and what the event is,” said the third co-chair, Mary Monica Allen. “It’s just another great way to raise interest by outside people.”
Other marketing tricks that played slightly smaller roles in the large number of people generated by this year’s event were definitely the hashtag, #DeacsFightCancer, as well as the Snapchat filter created just for the Wake ‘N Shake event.
“I really think that because of just everything we had going for us on social media such as the ‘DeacsFightCancer’ hashtag and the snapchat filter, so many people were more interested and wanted to get involved,” said Johnson. “We just went over and above, and it’s only going to keep going up for a while.”
However, oddly enough, the hashtag itself was not planned too far in advance. “It’s not like we sat down and decided to use the hashtag ‘Deacs Fight Cancer.’ It just sort of happened and we just ran with it,” Pappas said.
Wake ‘N Shake is by and far one of the best events on campus.
“The entirety of Wake ‘N Shake relies on Wake students coming out and making a difference in their community,” Hanger said.
“By combining the drive of Wake students with their mutual dislike of cancer, Wake ‘N Shake brings together a crowd that’s not only intelligent but also compassionate, joyful and ready to make a change,” she added.
Pappas echoed this sentiment. “[Wake N’ Shake] was an extremely successful and fun event, and we all believe that everyone who attended had a great time — including ourselves. We are so happy that the huge amount of money that we raised will help benefit cancer research, and it can all only be attributed to the dedication of the Wake Forest community.”