photo of Mary Britton Anderson for the profile written about her

Mary-Britton Anderson on Continuing the Tradition of Wake ‘N Shake

Wake ‘N Shake is a 12-hour dance marathon held every year to benefit the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund. This year the event is being held March 21st in the Sutton Gymnasium and features a rainforest theme with the tagline, “Dare to discover the cure.” Mary-Britton Anderson, a senior majoring in sociology from Nashville, Tennessee, is one of the three student directors in charge of planning this remarkable event. Recently she sat down with Her Campus for the tell-all about planning and getting involved with Wake ‘N Shake. 

Her Campus: How did you get involved in Wake ‘N Shake?

Mary-Britton Anderson: I remember seeing the table at the involvement table my freshman year and I signed up out of interest and ended up applying to be on the Champion Relations Committee. There are 11 committees in Wake ‘N Shake, and Champion Relations is in charge of getting the eight cancer survivors from the community to come and speak at the event. I was put on that committee which I wanted because I think there’s nothing more to the core of what Wake ‘N Shake is; it’s about people and it’s about survivorship and honoring those who didn’t survive. I wanted to have that personal connection to the event. I joined it and my champion for the event was this 20-year-old girl who had had multiple brain tumors and she was phenomenal and stayed for five hours of the event dancing with us. It was really powerful watching a patient and a survivor turn into a supporter. That captured my heart and captured my passion for Wake ‘N Shake. So, then I was placed on Champion Relations my sophomore and junior year on the exec team. Then, I had always set the goal for myself freshman year that if I could have a legacy at Wake and be a part of something bigger than myself, I wanted it to be Wake ‘N Shake. I saw that capacity being in the form of being one of three student directors and so applied for that position last spring and got it and so we’ve been working on Wake ‘N Shake 2020 since about last April. 

HC: How much money Wake ‘N Shake raised in the past and what is this year’s fundraising goal?

MBA: Our goal this year is to break $400K again. This is actually the 15th year of Wake ‘N Shake which is awesome so it’s a really big celebratory year. In the 15 years we have raised actually over two million dollars. And not only is it the 15th anniversary of Wake ‘N Shake, it’s the 50th year since Brian Piccolo passed. He was a student at Wake Forest who played on the football team and then actually played in the NFL. He was taken out of the game one day and was then diagnosed with cancer and passed doing that. But some students in 1970 created the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund to honor his legacy. He was one of those people who was bigger than life and really spearheaded race relations in the NFL. He was the first person to have a mixed-race room while travelling. His best friend, Gale Sayers, was black and they were the first people to integrate travel amongst the teams. Our fund honors him which is really great.

HC: What is something you want to do differently this year in order to make the event better?

MBA: The [other] student directors and I made some goals for ourselves to make the event better and one of them we’re really harping on is education around the event. We are really trying to make an effort to educate people about who Brian is and why we dance and where this money goes and has done. 100% of all money raised through Wake ‘N Shake goes to the cancer research center at Wake Baptist. The money from Wake ‘N Shake has created a new cancer drug that is in its last clinical trials that is going to be able to treat three different kinds of cancer. Our money has lent to the purchasing of new nanoparticle devices allowing the cancer center to have newer and better treatment machines for their patients. The money has also been used to better increase health equity among Hispanic patients. They’ve created the position of a Hispanic navigator in the cancer center which the whole role of that person is to help Hispanic patients find clinical trials and navigate their care to help increase survival rates among that cohort and to improve cancer equity and healthy outcomes. It’s pretty rare that you get to be part of a philanthropic event where 100% of the proceeds go right to your cause and then you get to see the effects right in your community. So, we’re really trying to spearhead education.

HC: Why is this event so important to you? 

MBA: Cancer touches everybody; everyone has a story about it whether or not you were the one who had cancer, or it was a parent or friend, or you don’t know anyone. It’s a really scary disease in the fact that it does not discriminate. My grandfather has had cancer multiple times and I have a friend who is currently suffering through cancer for the second time. I’ve seen other friends have cancer and survive it and I’ve seen friends lose family members because of it. Being at college is really fun and there are a lot of fun aspects of college, but I also wanted to make sure my time here was doing something meaningful and a part of some kind of greater good. It captured my heart and I wanted to use Wake ‘N Shake as a way to honor those who have lost their lives and celebrate the people who have been able to survive it. 

HC: How has being part of Wake ‘N Shake defined your time at Wake Forest?

MBA: I think it has defined my time at Wake completely. When I look back at my time at Wake, this will be at the core of it besides my friendships and my academics. I think it’s led me to a passion. I’ve always cared about cancer and cancer research, but it has developed a passion and a fire in me like no other that has led me to a career path. I always knew I wanted to go into medicine, but this has sparked my interest in a way I didn’t know before. I would like to think that part of my heart and my hopeful, future career comes from Wake ‘N Shake amongst other things. It’s given me some of my best friendships and it has given me some good leadership skills; I think it has made me into a better person. Wake ‘N Shake makes you think about more than just yourself and it’s really easy in this phase of our lives to be pretty selfish and Wake ‘N Shake has really realigned my focus. 

HC: Anything else you would like to add?

MBA: Sign up! You can sign up at www.wakenshake.com. It’s a Wake Forest tradition for a reason; it epitomizes pro humanitate and community. It’s a bucket list thing that everyone at Wake should do.