On Friday, Fisher students could be found dancing in Cleary Auditorium, dorm rooms, public viewing areas and more to make Teddi 39 — the first virtual Teddi — the best one yet.
Despite the economic and logistic strains from the COVID-19 pandemic, the fundraiser brought in $123,641.94 — about $18,000 higher than the original goal of $115,000.
Teddi Dance For Love is an event that Fisher has put on for the last 39 years in order to raise money for Camp Good Days — a summer camp that provides children struggling with cancer the opportunity to attend, free of cost, and have a week of “normalcy” and as founder Gary Mervis said, “give back some of that childhood that the illness has taken.”
Teddi was different this year with a mainly virtual presence, a result of the ongoing pandemic. With a small number of committee members present in the auditorium for an in-person dance, the remainder of participants attended via two separate zoom links. One for committee members, and one public link for general students and any community members.
College President Gerard Rooney’s wife was in attendance and applauded Teddi Chair, Emily Trotman, and all other members for pulling the event off in such unprecedented times. “The compassion, the creativity, the thinking outside the box… That’s what made this possible.”
Hour themes included Breakup Hour, Diva Hour, Disney Channel Throwback Hour, and One Direction Hour. Staff and Faculty members played an important role in the dance as well — from Dr. Cunningham DJ’ing an hour, to meditation with Jenna Weintraub, to Fisher Dining staff sharing clips of them dancing in honor of Teddi on social media. That day, Teddi was celebrated all across campus from balloon arches and streamers, festive flags to celebrate the Around The World theme, to notes from students sharing why they danced for Teddi. Many danced for grandparents, loved ones, and for the kids who couldn’t.
To keep their zoom audience engaged, Teddi enlisted the help of social media platforms, mainly TikTok and Instagram. They invited members to participate in hourly challenges like rating Justin Bieber songs, creating a country music bracket, dressing up like a holiday, and posting throwback pictures of themselves from the early 2000’s. These challenges allowed them to keep everyone feeling involved and incorporated into the night.
Mervis touched on how the pandemic was effecting Camp Good Days. “Cancer doesn’t stop during a pandemic, and neither do we at Camp Good Days,” Mervis said. “The students at St. John Fisher have been with me every part of the way.”
Teddi 39 was dedicated to Leandra Ellis, who lost her battle with an inoperable brain stem tumor at the age of 13 on Feb. 16, 2020. She was only able to attend camp once, but several counselors shared their stories regarding Ellis and her shining and fearless personality.
One of the most solemn aspects of the night has always been the balloon launch, where typically everyone releases a balloon from Growney stadium in honor of “all the people who can never come up and say thank you,” as Mervis put it. This year was obviously different but still included a moment of silence, where many students and community members made the backgrounds of their Zoom screen an image of the balloons floating into the sky.
“I didn’t have to be in the room to feel the love from the St. John Fisher community,” Teddi Honorary Chair Deanna Dewberry said at the closing ceremonies. From those decorating their rooms on Zoom, watching from Mainstage, or dancing in person it was a campus wide event. As Father Kevin said during the blessing of the feet, “Bind us into one community, one body as we begin tonight’s dance.” Committee Member of the Year and 24 hour DJ, Jack Laino, also referred to the sense of community that Teddi creates each year. “This is something bigger than any one of us.” Trotman looking back on the night called it a “complete group effort” and referred to it as “an absolutely amazing experience and sight to see, the goodness that can come throughout these tough times in the Fisher community.”
From an event that started with a few dozen dancers and raised $7,000, it has grown into something so much more for both the Fisher community and the families it impacts.