Seventy Grade 11 and 12 students spending a night staying awake in a school gymnasium might seem like more fun than sacrifice, but it’s ultimately for a good cause.
The two Cambie secondary recreational leadership classes will participate in an all-night wake-a-thon Thursday night to fundraise for three nonprofit organizations, KidSportBC, Unicef and Charley’s Fund for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a rare degenerative muscular disease.
“[The Grade 12 class] generally reaches out to organizations that impact the community,” said leadership teacher Paula Stone-Charlton. “This year, Charley’s Fund hits very close to home because of Sean [a Grade 10 student with DMD]. So the kids are really rallying around it and it’s created more momentum.”
At the beginning of the year, students from the Grade 12 class presented their ideas for organizations to support and voted on the top three.
They also watched Darius Goes West, a documentary that tracks 15-year-old Darius Weens, who has DMD, as he travels across America to get his wheelchair customized by MTV’s Pimp My Ride.
“The class was really impacted by the documentary, plus one of the students in our school has it,” said an enthusiastic Charlene Portacio, a Grade 12 student and second year wake-a-thon participant.
“So it really motivated us to help the teenagers who go through this. We want to help them live life to the fullest.”
Throughout the past month, they’ve been busy fundraising from bake sales, to going door-to-door and receiving pledges.
All efforts culminate in Thursday’s consciousness marathon where the students turn in what they’ve raised, hoping it’ll add up to their goal of $5,000, with each raking in about $70. In the past, they’ve reached approximately $4,500.
“They’ve all worked hard for it and are pretty confident that they’re going to reach the goal,” said Stone-Charlton.
The wake-a-thon was conceived six years ago as a team-building exercise for the leadership classes. The students wanted a way to get to know each other, so they planned a night of activities from watching movies to playing man hunt.
Inspired by its success, the following year they decided to take the night beyond themselves and fundraise for local or international organizations.
“It’s a really neat family atmosphere,” said Stone-Charlton. “There’s a lot of team bonding and it’s really powerful to see. It’s neat to see where the kids go with it.”
At around 6 p.m. Thursday evening, the students will file in through the gymnasium doors, followed by an introduction at 7 p.m. At this point, Sean and his mother will talk about muscular dystrophy.
The Grade 12s also show a video they put together about the three organizations they help.
“It’s so awesome,” said Charlene. “It really brings the class together. The video at the beginning brings awareness to us, to see real life people going through this. So it’s in our minds throughout the night and it’s what motivates us to stay up.”
The students cook dinner together before participating in the various activities. Stone-Charlton makes sure to set one gymnasium aside as a “quiet zone” for those needing some downtime.
She also tries to pair the event with a Pro-D Day, letting the kids sleep off their efforts the following day.
“It’s usually a pretty emotional night, especially when the kids are watching the video,” said Stone-Charlton. “But it’s neat for them to see where their efforts are going.
“I encourage them to stay up and persevere because it gives them the opportunity to experience a challenge, nothing compared to how those living with illness feel, but still a challenge for them.”