Wake Forest students stand up to cancer

12-hour dance marathon raises money for cancer research

More than a thousand Wake Forest University students will dance the day and night away on Saturday, March 25 to raise money for cancer research during Wake ‘N Shake.

It’s the largest student-led philanthropic event on campus.

The event will take place from noon to midnight in the University’s Sutton Center.

“We will have dancing, singing, games and inspirational speakers each hour to keep us going,” said Jamie Wander, a junior finance major from Dallas.

“There’s also a ‘who are you dancing for?’ wall that will be covered in paint swatches where participants can write the names of cancer survivors and those who have died from the disease. We will have a rave with bright colored glow sticks and use all white luminaries at the end during a moment of silence, as we reflect on the night. There’s a lot of momentum created for the final fundraising total announced at the end of the night,” added Wander.

Who are you dancing for? The wall pays tribute to cancer survivors and people who have passed away from the disease.

Part of Wake ‘N Shake’s motto is standing up to cancer, so the goal for students is not to sit down the entire 12 hours.

Senior Caitlyn Dwyer has served in several roles for Wake N’ Shake during her time on campus.

“I have learned so much through this opportunity,” said Dwyer, a health and exercise science major from New Jersey. “We have various committees, and we organize it on so many levels. It’s very emotional and embodies the spirit of Pro Humanitate at Wake Forest. It’s about everyone coming together for something that’s bigger than us. It’s great to see the impact.”

Meet WFU cancer survivor Ben Miller

A highlight of Wake ‘N Shake is the student champion speech. This year, sophomore Ben Miller, an applied statistics major from Chicago, will share his cancer battle.

In January of 2022, the 18 year-old was busy with his classes and enjoying his freshman year at Wake Forest. He thought he had a bad chest cold or even pneumonia – so he made a trip to the student health clinic.

An x-ray showed a large tumor in his chest. More scans and procedures followed. Miller was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.

Miller’s last day of chemotherapy was seven months later on August 17, just two days after his birthday. He had another scan and came back to Wake Forest to take a light load of classes as he continued to recover. That’s when he got the call from doctors that his cancer was in remission. He’s been in remission for 6 months.

This is Miller’s first-time volunteering for Wake ‘N Shake. He helps organize corporate sponsorships for the event. Miller hopes his story will help others see the difference they are making.

“Every moment that I have for the rest of my life will be because somebody 50 years ago raised money to fund the chemotherapy that saved my life.” Ben Miller, sophomore at Wake Forest

Wake ‘N Shake started in 2006 with 300 dancers raising over $30,000 for the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund.

Piccolo is a former Wake Forest All-American football player who died of cancer at age 26 while playing for the NFL’s Chicago Bears. He passed away in 1970. The fund bearing his name provides money that allows the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist to pursue its most innovative research programs. 

Last year, Wake Forest students raised more than $300,000 for the cause.

Media Note: Wake Forest student organizers and Brad Shugoll, director, service and leadership in the Office of Civic and Community Engagement will be available for interviews during the event on Saturday, March 25, 2023 from 1 – 4 p.m. and 7 – 9 p.m. 

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