Wake ‘N Shake dance marathon set for March 23

Goal is to raise $250,000 for cancer research

More than a thousand Wake Forest University students will put on their dancing shoes to raise funds for cancer research and support those impacted by the disease. The annual 12-hour-dance marathon known as Wake N’ Shake will take place on Saturday, March 23 from noon to midnight in the University’s Sutton Center.

“This year we’re going with the space theme and our slogan is ‘mission to the cure’,” said senior Jamie Wander, who is also a student director. “We are really focusing on making this an interactive event.”

More than a thousand students will participate in the 12-hour-dance marathon.

From planet globes to a spacecraft call booth, the auditorium in the Sutton center will be transformed into a dance destination for an important cause.

“We’re going to track people’s hours spent at the event with wristbands that are different for each hour showing how many hours they’ve been dancing for, to also kind of encourage them to just keep standing up, keep dancing,” said Emily Oh, a senior double major in English and Communication from Allendale, New Jersey who is co-leading the event. 

Live music, student performances and fun-filled games will also help keep students going during this high-energy event. But what makes the night even more meaningful are the stories from cancer survivors and their families. Each hour, champion speakers will inspire and remind participants why what they are doing is so important.

“My mom was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer right before my junior year in high school,” said Oh. “She is now in remission and is excited to be one of our champion speakers. We will also have two Wake Forest students share their own experiences.”

Oh is the recipient of the Jeremy Nottingham Pro Humanitate Award. The scholarship was established by the Nottingham family to honor Jeremy’s time at Wake Forest, graduating in 2013 with a BA in Communications. Jeremy passed away from lynch syndrome in 2021. His father, Junius, will also serve as a champion speaker during Wake ‘N Shake.

“Volunteering for Wake ‘N Shake has been a life changing experience for me,” Oh said.

“To see all these organizations across campus and beyond come together to make a difference for others is very emotional and inspiring. ” Wake Forest senior Emily Oh

Wake ‘N Shake student directors are partnering with local businesses and restaurants for mini fundraisers leading up to the dance marathon.

Senior Owen Ghaphery said all this momentum comes full circle in the final hour when the total amount raised is announced.

Students raise glow sticks to remember cancer survivors and those who have lost their battle with the disease.

“We have the Glow Stick event, and everyone raises their glow sticks, and we hear a song sung by a student. You look around the room, and most everyone’s crying during that time, because just about everyone knows someone who has been impacted by cancer,” said Ghaphery. Just having that moment with the entire community of Wake Forest. Some people, you know, some people you’ve never met before is just really moving.”

Wake ‘N Shake is one of three student-led events held throughout the year that raises funds to support the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

The donations have helped support the clinical trial phase of a new drug for pancreatic cancer, a Hispanic patient navigator position, which is helping to improve patient access to care and increase clinical trial participation and the purchase of nanoparticle generation and detection equipment.

Students established the Piccolo Fund in memory of Brian Piccolo. The former Demon Deacon was an All-American football player who died of cancer at age 26 while playing for the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

“Wake ‘N Shake brings the community together for a single day of engagement and carries with it a sustained impact. Through our collective action, we are making a difference in the lives of many right here in our community,” said Brad Shugoll, director of service and leadership with Wake Forest’s Office of Civic and Community Engagement. 

The goal for this year’s Wake ‘N Shake is to raise $250,000. Last year, the dance-a-thon hosted nearly 1,400 students, faculty and staff and raised a total of $248,234. 

Since the event began in 2006, students have raised more than $3.5 million for the Piccolo Fund.

Media Note: Wake Forest freshman Ryder Solberg, who is a survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, will speak at the event and is available for interviews. Student organizers and Brad Shugoll, director, service and leadership in the Office of Civic and Community Engagement will also be available for interviews during the event on Saturday, March 23, 2024 from 1 – 4 p.m. and 7 – 9 p.m. 

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