The University’s Shadow PR Firm and Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter organized a flash mob in the Multipurpose Activity Center (MAC) during the men’s basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 22.
The flash mob was aimed to spread awareness for “Monmouth Hawks Dance Together,” a six-hour dance-a-thon that will be held to benefit The Valerie Fund, a not-for-profit organization that aims to provide comprehensive health care and support for children with cancer and rare blood disorders.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a flash mob is “a sudden mass gathering (that is) unanticipated, except by participants who communicate electronically [and externally].”
Members of the chapter worked cooperatively with the Dance Team, Cheerleading Team, students enrolled in Dr. Sheila McAllister’s Event Planning class, general students, faculty, and staff to perform a dance routine to Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull’s collaboration “Live it Up.” The dance included a total of 50 performers. The flash mob occurred during a media timeout in the second half of the game with only a little over seven minutes left of playing time.
Eddy Occhipinti, Assistant Athletics Director for Marketing, believes this was the first flash mob to take place in the MAC at a University basketball game. He said, “I do think the flash mob, in addition to Saturday’s game being televised on ESPN3, our retiring of Miles Austin’s jersey and our honoring of our women’s soccer team for winning the first MAAC Championship in school history this season, helped increase student attendance at the game… It all came together to make for a pretty special night.”
Kelly Brockett, co-President of PRSSA, said, “I think the flash mob turned out as best as it could be. I wish we could have had more students involved, but it went well.” Brockett said it was hard to coordinate the students’ schedules in order to reach optimum participation, especially with other events occurring on the same night, such as “Winter Ball” hosted by the Residence Hall Association (RHA).
“The fact that we were able to go out there, spread awareness of The Valerie Fund, and pull this off with the amount of people that we did is something to be proud of,” added Brockett.
PRSSA started working with The Valerie Fund as a client during the fall semester, and has since been working on sponsoring “Monmouth Hawks Dance Together,” an event that will take place on Friday, April 4 from 6 pm to midnight in the Rebecca Stafford Student Center (RSSC). The event will benefit The Valerie Fund’s Children’s Center for Cancer of The Unterberg Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center.
Bunny Flanders, Director of Marketing and Communications at The Valerie Fund, said, “Initially, PRSSA wanted to set a goal and raise $10,000 for the dance-a-thon, but I feel that goal is too low. PRSSA at Monmouth University is so extraordinary I have a feeling they are going to raise $25,000. There are some really extraordinary leaders [in their chapter] and I am impressed with all of them.”
When asked what motivated PRSSA to start working with this not-for-profit organization, Brockett responded, “It is a great cause so close to home. There are children within our own community, down the street, fighting a battle that they should not have to fight. I think that it is important for University students to get involved and donate or spread the word to help these children out so they can look up to and be inspired by college students in their community.”
McAllister, co-advisor of PRSSA, said there are many established non-profit organizations and the competition for donations is fierce. The mission of PRSSA, therefore, is to increase awareness of The Valerie Fund and breakthrough the media clutter surrounding non-profits in order to bring a call to action and increase donations. “There are still these kids with cancer,” McAllister said, “and there are these families that need support. Everyone is feeling it. And nobody understands that hardship unless they’ve lived that. The Valerie Fund is a great cause and it is definitely deserved of attention. They have proven themselves.”
Practices for the flash mob were choreographed by dancer and choreographer Lauren-Beth Kassinger on Sunday, Feb. 16 and Wednesday, Feb. 19. According to Kristi Silver, co-President of PRSSA, the student attendance at the practices was disappointing. Silver mostly blames a lack of school spirit on the lack of overall student involvement in the flash mob.
Brockett said, “I think that this school has two extremes when it comes to student involvement; there are many students at this school that are super involved and super focused with their respective activities and organizations that it is difficult for them to commit to another club or organization’s events or activities, and then, on the contrary, there are some students that are not involved on campus at all.”
These two extremes, according to Brockett, made it difficult to effectively coordinate a flash mob, which ended up falling short of overall expectations.
As a result of the lack of participation, the two PRSSA presidents decided they should begin advertising the flash mob via social media to gain interest while also withholding the date, time, and location of the routine to the public to maintain the element of surprise.
Ashley Suppa, Captain of the Cheerleading Team, said this was the Cheerleading Team’s first time participating in a flash mob. She said, “I feel that the flash mob is a really great way to benefit a non-profit organization because it is a fun and unique way to get a big number of students together for a good cause.” Suppa said the dance looked a little challenging, but it only took her and her fellow teammates a few practices to master, so students did not need to feel frightened or hesitant to join the flash mob.
Brockett thanked athletics and the Dance and Cheerleading teams for their willingness to participate.
Kyle McKenna, a junior public relations student and participant in the flash mob, said he believes the flash mob was a great means of communicating the dance-a-thon, in addition to having the announcer briefly talk about the organization sporadically throughout the game as well as displaying the logo for the event on the big screen above the court. He said, “I really admire The Valerie Fund and Bunny who came to speak to PRSSA earlier this year… We raised awareness for this non-for-profit in front of thousands of people.”
PRSSA had a table stationed at the game with brochures, bracelets, and registration sheets for “Monmouth Hawks Dance Together.” Although less than $100 in donations were given at the game, Brockett and Silver believe this is the start for PRSSA’s biggest event of the semester.
PHOTO COURTESY of Mary Harris