Dance-Shake-Donate Video challenge raises money for Parkinson’s

Jeff Butchen with his daughter, Zoe. Mr. Butchen was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a year and a half ago and Zoe has decided to create a video challenge, similar to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, to raise awareness as well as money for research. The call to action asks participants to dance and shake to Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off and to challenge three others, post the video on Facebook and make a donation through the donation link on the family’s website, www.danceshakedonate.com.

Jeff Butchen with his daughter, Zoe. Mr. Butchen was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a year and a half ago and Zoe has decided to create a video challenge, similar to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, to raise awareness as well as money for research. The call to action asks participants to dance and shake to Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off and to challenge three others, post the video on Facebook and make a donation through the donation link on the family’s website, www.danceshakedonate.com.

Dancing has never felt this good.

Coming off the heels of the successful ALS Ice Bucket Challenge this summer, a Ridgefield family has come up with a video campaign they hope will “go viral” to raise money for Parkinson’s disease research.

Zoe Butchen, a freshman at Ridgefield High School, started the Dance/Shake/Donate Challenge last week for her father, Jeff, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s a year and a half ago.

She heard the hit song Shake It Off from her favorite artist, Taylor Swift, last month and knew that it was more than just a coincidence — that it was meant to be used to make a difference for her dad and other patients with the disease.

“I heard the song on the radio and almost immediately made the connection,” she said. “As a family, one of the things we’ve been telling my dad ever since he was diagnosed is to ‘shake it off’ and to have a positive attitude about his illness. …

“When he was first diagnosed, it was surprising and we didn’t know what would happen next,” Zoe said. “All we knew is that we noticed that he was shaking some and that was scary, but we’ve gotten through it as a family and we want to make a difference to help others who are being impacted by it.”

The disease, which reportedly impacts approximately 10 million people worldwide, is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. It develops gradually, starting usually with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand.

The tremor is the most well-known sign of Parkinson’s, but the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.

With the help of her family, Zoe honed the idea of asking people as individuals or as a group to film themselves dancing and shaking to Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, and to challenge at least three other people, to post the video on Facebook and donate to the Michael J. Fox Foundation or the American Parkinson Disease Association through the website danceshakedonate.com.

So far, Zoe’s original YouTube video, in which she challenged her family to create their own dance and challenge others, has raised more than $5,000 since it launched on Oct. 10.

“As a family, we believe in giving back, and we’re fortunate that we live in a town such as Ridgefield, where there are a lot of people who believe in the same thing and who are so willing to donate to a cause like this,” said Zoe, who’s been dancing since she was 3.

“This is something that’s starting out as a community thing, and we are fortunate to have our community’s support.”

Watch it grow

While having the hometown support gives the video a foundation, the Butchens hope the campaign will grow and eventually obtain a national spotlight similar to that of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

“We’re hoping it takes off,” Mr. Butchen said. “It’s still very local — it just launched here this week and we’re challenging families from around town to get involved, but there’s no reason it can’t grow and spread out. …

“We’re going to be based out of Ridgefield but we’re trying to push it out of the immediate area.”

He added that they’ve also sent the video to friends on Long Island and relatives in the Midwest and Canada to see if it catches on there and elsewhere around the country.

“People are already shaking it to this song and sending Taylor videos of themselves dancing to it — why not do it for a good cause?” Mr. Butchen said.

“I remember we were sitting around the kitchen table when Zoe told us about the song and said it was appropriate and could really help make a difference,” he said. “She’s been thinking about this idea for a month or so now, but getting the video ready and starting the challenge has only taken her about two weeks — the progress on it is really amazing.”

Celebrity support?

The progress of the campaign — and its popularity nationwide — may need to await response from a few A-list celebrities.

The family has reached out to the publicists of Ms. Swift, Mr. Fox, Ellen DeGeneres, and Whoopi Goldberg, who performed at the Ridgefield Playhouse last week.

“We hope to get it on The View,” Mr. Butchen said.

“We’d like to ride the wave from the Ice Bucket Challenge and get people really talking about it and donating to the research,” he said. “It would be a dream come true if it were as big as that or even just a fraction of that support.”

Regardless of who comes out to participate and promote the Dance/Shake/Donate Challenge, Zoe and her mother, Heather, feel confident that it will catch on for a simple reason: It’s fun.

“It’s silly watching people improvise and dance like this,” Ms. Butchen said.   

“We want it to be like the ice bucket but more silly,” Zoe said. “Dancing should be funnier as a whole, whether it’s a group dance or someone just alone.”

A giving family

The Butchens, who have lived in town for the last 19 years, aren’t unfamiliar with calling on the community to raise funds for a cause.

Mr. Butchen’s son Cole, a senior at RHS, was one of the founders of the Ridgefield BandJam, which has raised over $100,000 for the Ridgefield Playhouse. As reward for his work, he received the Playhouse’s first-ever Arts Volunteer Award.

“As a family, we believe strongly in community and offering our time to make the world a better place,” said Mr. Butchen, who serves on the Playhouse’s board of directors. “Writing a check is easy, putting in the effort is not.”

He’s very proud of his daughter, who, in addition to starting this campaign, launched a clothing drive to collect old dance costumes for kids who are less fortunate.

“She started that four years ago, when she was 9,” he said. “She’s been able to get thousands of costumes – I get packages sent to my office every day.”

Additional help

Promoting the campaign shouldn’t be much of a challenge for the family, as they have a marketing company at their disposal.

“It’s what I do for a living,” said Mr. Butchen, who works for Team Digital Promotions in Bethel. “So we have access to all sorts of stuff and people who can help develop it more or add something creative to it if we want to do anything else.”

At the local level, one of the ideas the family wants to pursue is having the high school dance team create its own Dance/Shake/Donate video and pass the challenge to the cheerleaders and football team to do the same.

“We want it to spread all over and go viral,” Zoe said. “Our goal is to get it everywhere.”

“It’s all just starting,” Mr. Butchen added. “We’re just keeping our fingers crossed.”

To watch the video story and the Butchens’ family video, go to danceshakedonate.com.

To make a donation, go to www2.michaeljfox.org/goto/danceshakedonate.

For more information, email [email protected]

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