Dance Big Red conducts 1st virtual event due to coronavirus

A screenshot from Dance Big Red’s virtual event shows members watching a video on Norton Children’s hospital via Zoom. The event was moved online due to coronavirus.

Cassady Lamb

The sixth Dance Big Red event took place Saturday, but for the first time, the event was totally virtual.

Dance Big Red is WKU’s largest student-run fundraiser and through the event, students have raised thousands of dollars for Norton Children’s Hospital, specifically for ‘pediatric cardiovascular services and adolescent cancer care,’ according to their website.

The switch from an on-campus event to a virtual one with only one week to plan posed some difficulties for staff and participants.

“The biggest thing we all talked about from the start is we wanted DBR to happen,” said Erin Donelson, overall executive co-chair of Dance Big Red. “It’s a very important event. From the start the answer was yes.”

WKU joins thousands of universities around the country in virtualizing classes and events after cancelling classes due to the spread of the coronavirus.

The Dance Big Red staff originally planned for the event to be carried on over a program called WebEX, but Donelson said it was not doing everything the staff wanted it to do. So, they learned how to work around the video application Zoom.

Briley Barks, a WKU junior and Dance Little Red and Morale executive chair said the switch to a virtual event was “super difficult” and an “all hands on deck situation.”

“We planned since August for an in person event, teaming up with vendors and to switch to a virtual platform was just so difficult, especially doing it in a week!” Barks said in a direct message Sunday night.

The original 12-hour event was shortened to four hours, from 8 p.m. to midnight, because it was being held during the extended spring break period and the staff believed the shortened event would help keep peoples’ attention on the video call. The staff also lowered their overall fundraising goal because of the “worldwide pandemic,” Barks said.

The Dance Big Red staff reached out to Norton’s Brave Hearts families to compile videos describing their families’ stories that would be shown during the event. Multiple families participated, and their videos were shown throughout the night, alongside students learning dances.

Norton Children’s Brave Hearts is a support group of local families united by their children’s fight to overcome a complex congenital heart defect, according to the Norton Children’s website.

“The Brave Heart families were a little disappointed to not see [Dance Big Red] in person, but they immediately jumped on board with virtual,” Donelson said. “It was very inspiring, being on that video call.”

At one point during the call, 150 people were all on together, 270 were registered and the call was open for people to come and go.

The main goal and the heart of Dance Big Red is to bring the community together for one cause, Donelson said. 

“It was a different experience from being in person, but you definitely felt like you were still with people,” Donelson said. “We felt together even through the distance.”

Games such as ‘Guess the Song’ and a scavenger hunt were played during the call on Saturday night. Prizes from local Bowling Green businesses were also awarded to students.

By the end of the video call, $34,023 total was raised and the total went up $4,000 to total $38,000 on Sunday morning, Donelson said.

“It was really cool to see so many hands reach in to help us to achieve our goal,” Donelson said.

Throughout all of the obstacles the Dance Big Red team faced, Donelson said they seem to have felt supported through the change to a virtual event.

“The entire Dance Big Red team has been completely incredible throughout this entire year, especially in this last week with all of this uncertainty,” Donelson said. “They’ve all given so much; I am overwhelmed with the amount of service.”

WKU students, faculty and staff make up for some of the registered participants and team members for Dance Big Red.

“It was so wonderful being a part of a team that was able to come together and adapt on a dime for Norton Children’s Hospital,” Barks said.

Norton Children’s Hospital is still accepting donations through Dance Big Red here.

“Our numbers are still growing and we’re definitely still willing to accept whatever anyone can give during this time,” Donelson said.

News reporter Cassady Lamb can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @lambp0p.