he idea started with students at a few local high schools dancing and lip-syncing on video.
From there, the vision to raise awareness and money for a cause important to one student grew. And grew some more.
About two months later, a Whiteland Community High School senior’s five-minute video includes hundreds of students dancing, singing and holding up signs supporting an Indianapolis children’s hospital, at college campuses across the state, with famous Hoosiers, including the voice of Indiana University’s Assembly Hall and personalities of a morning radio show.
Landry Long, 18, thinks that the exposure will help his lofty goal: raising $30,000 for Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health by the end of the month.
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“We started reaching out, and I saw it could be a whole lot more than I ever imagined,” Long said.
Days after the video launched, it had more than 19,000 views, and more than $1,100 had been donated to Landry’s GoFundMe page. He knows the overall goal is a big one, but he thinks it could happen. Regardless, he had to try before he heads off to college, he said.
“And every dollar helps,” he said.
Long’s idea grew out of his work filming a dance marathon his school staged to benefit Riley. He has been passionate about filmmaking since fifth grade when he did an infomercial for an English class. Now, he plans to study film production at Taylor University in the fall.
He settled on a lip dub video, which have become popular for all kinds of causes online. He did all the editing himself and recruited friends to help him shoot and organize the video and music.
Long’s first thought was to include a few other Johnson County high schools, and then he decided to reach out to colleges. He used social media and reached out to the people who organize dance marathons for Riley at the colleges and universities. In some cases, he just got lucky.
At Indiana University, he used family connections.
His father played one of the characters in the movie “Hoosiers,” and his grandfather played on the IU basketball team from 1959 to 1962. His grandfather helped them get into Assembly Hall, and while there they met up with Chuck Crabb, the announcer and voice of Assembly Hall, who quickly agreed to be a part of the video.
They contacted a producer they knew from the morning radio show “The Bob & Tom Show,” who happens to be a Whiteland Community High School graduate.
And they also adapted.
They went to Butler University, with the goal of having the basketball team involved in their video. But when they got there, they found out NCAA restrictions wouldn’t allow it. So Landry and his crew headed over to his sister’s sorority instead.
In the end, they shot the video throughout Indiana, including the campuses of Notre Dame, Butler, Purdue, IU, University of Southern Indiana, Hanover College and the University of Indianapolis. They also shot some scenes at an Indianapolis television station and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
“We had a couple instances where someone wouldn’t get back with us, and we just kept trying,” Long said.
‘Get this thing done’
Their final trip, a planned visit to Indiana State University, ended with their car in a snowy ditch. And Long said he decided that was a sign that his travels should be over.
“I decided God was looking out for me, and I needed to get this thing done,” he said.
Long knew the video would focus on lots of people dancing to the song they chose “The Best Song Ever” by One Direction, but he wanted to also tell a story.
“Everyone can use tools. But if you’re not able to tell a story, you’re out of luck,” he said.
So he reached out to the families he knew who had experience with Riley.
Braedon Upchurch and his family jumped at the chance.
The Clark-Pleasant Intermediate School sixth-grader was born 12 weeks premature. His mother, Shari Upchurch, was pregnant with twins, but his sibling did not survive. When Braedon was born, he weighed 2 pounds, 3 ounces.
He spent 11 weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit at Riley. But a week after he was released he was rushed back because his retinas were detaching. Doctors had to do surgery to save his eyesight, Shari Upchurch said.
Braedon now has near perfect eyesight and was released from the care of Riley doctors four years ago.
When Long asked him to speak in the video, Braedon was beyond nervous, but he wanted to support the hospital.
“Riley means a lot to me, really. It means way too much to describe,” Braedon said.
The family had insurance, so their medical bills were covered, but not all families do, Shari Upchurch said. And the Riley Children’s Foundation helps those families, which is why the Upchurch family participates in about 20 dance marathons per year, which raise money for Riley families.
They met Long at one of those dance marathons.
“What he’s doing is absolutely amazing,” Shari Upchurch said.
Long said he wanted to tell the stories of Riley families to show how amazing they are. The stories also make the video more personal, he added.
In the two months he spent working on the video, he met more people with stories who were eager to get involved.
One was a boy he met at the University of Indianapolis when they filmed there. The boy uses a gait trainer to get around and was at the campus playing.
He tagged along with the crew; and when they began filming, Long looked down and saw him in the crowd. He had him come up to the front.
“The world can be an awful place sometimes, but you can meet some really good people,” Long said.
Long knew many of the students who got involved — some who danced outside in subzero temperatures — through dance marathons for Riley. So many of them were united with a passion for what the hospital does.
“These kids, they just go. They don’t let it stop them,” he said.
Now, he hopes to continue to build support and awareness with the video. He and friends have reached out through social media to spread their video further, including by contacting talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and Colts punter Pat McAfee.
“If we could get some of those high-ups to see it, people would donate,” he said. “People do it all the time.”
“Everyone can use tools. But if you’re not able to tell a story, you’re out of luck.”
Landry Long, Whiteland Community High School, on using film to benefit Riley Hospital for Children