A 16-year-old girl from Melville is hoping that her new campaign -- to get people to challenge each other to dance to the song "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)" by Silentó -- will become the next "ice-bucket challenge" viral fundraising phenomenon.
Since Jordan Belous began the #WhipPediatricCancer campaign on Aug. 17, hundreds of groups and individuals have posted videos of themselves executing the steps to lyrics that command "Now watch me whip, now watch me nae nae" -- thrusting forward with a fist to "whip" and walking backward with one hand in the air to "nae nae." Donations now tally more than $5,700.
Belous, a junior at Half Hollow Hills High School East, says she wants to raise at least $10,000 for pediatric cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. Videos have been posted from as far away as Texas and the United Kingdom, and as close by as the Half Hollow Hills High School East kickline. As the word spreads among pediatric cancer survivors' families and beyond, Belous says she hopes donations will grow.
"I think it's a wonderful campaign. It's already taken off so quickly in such a short time," says Andi Morris, annual giving assistant at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Medical Center. "I think there is such a potential for this to go viral and go really far." The campaign is perfectly timed -- September is pediatric cancer awareness month.
'I REALLY WANT TO DO THIS'
Belous says she was inspired to launch the campaign this summer, when she volunteered at Sunrise Day Camp in Wheatley Heights, a camp for kids with cancer and their siblings. She worked with 3- and 4-year-olds.
"At our camp, we have a little train that goes around," Belous says. She would ask the kids what they wanted to sing while riding it. "You would expect them to say 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,' " she says. "But they wanted to sing 'Watch me whip.'
"I was thinking about it and put two and two together. Everyone likes doing the dance, and they're smiling, and I thought it was a cute catchphrase -- 'Whip Pediatric Cancer.' I was sitting on the beach and I was listening to the song and I thought, 'I really want to do this.' "
Belous asked her dad, Seth, for help, and his company, Flexible Systems in Hauppauge, got involved building a website for Belous, who created the copy and chose photos. The website, whippediatriccancer.org, also has videos showing the steps for the dance, and a button to donate directly to Sloan-Kettering.
"I made my video and I nominated 100 people to do the whip," Belous says. "A lot of them happened to be people whose lives were affected by pediatric cancer. Then it just kept spreading and spreading."
If someone is challenged to do the dance but doesn't post a video, that person is supposed to donate money instead. "I think some people have opted just to donate, and some people had fun doing the dance but they wanted to support the cause and they wanted to donate as well," says Belous' mom, Victoria, a cancer survivor.
'POPULAR RIGHT NOW'
Carrie Morowitz, 21, of Woodbury, is one person who helped the effort catch on. She worked with Belous at Sunrise this summer, and when she returned for her senior year at the University of Texas, she had the close to 200 members of her sorority do the "whip" together on stage during a sorority banquet and then shared it on social media.
"I thought, 'How can I get in touch with as many people as possible from as far as possible?' " she says. "I thought if all of them have one person watch it, it could bring lots more attention to it."
Robin Hoyt of Bernardsville, N.J., lost her 8-year-old daughter Campbell to brain cancer in 2014 and started a foundation in her name called the Team Campbell Foundation. She heard about Belous' effort and invited her to come to the Somerset Patriots' minor league baseball game in New Jersey on Saturday during Childhood Cancer Awareness night at the game. The whole stadium did the "Watch Me" dance together and all donations from Saturday night will be added to Belous' campaign, Hoyt says.
"I think it's got huge potential," Hoyt says. "Because that particular dance is so popular right now."
Another LI teen gives back: Ella's Smile Train
Four generations of Ella Pastorelli's family swooped into Greenlawn on Sunday to celebrate her 8th birthday -- and the eighth time the family celebrated by running Ella's Smile Train Lemonade Stand to raise money for a worldwide charity that helps children with cleft lip and palate get corrective surgery.
"It helps people who don't have enough money to get an operation on their lip to get it fixed," Ella says. This year's event, which occurred on Sunday outside the family's home on East Maple Road, raised more than $18,000, bringing to more than $100,000 the amount the family has raised for the Smile Train charity over the eight years.
"It's a very heartwarming day," says Kelli Pastorelli, 40, Ella's mom. "We've had people we don't even know put hundreds of dollars in the bucket." The family now sells about 400 cups of lemonade throughout the event, which lasts from 10 a.m. until dark. People also make donations.
Ella was born with a cleft lip herself and had successful surgery when she was 4 months old. Since then, the lemonade stand has become a family affair. Susannah Schaefer, chief executive of Smile Train, lives in Lloyd Harbor and stopped by the stand on Sunday. She called the family's efforts "absolutely amazing."
Ella plans to keep celebrating her birthday with a lemonade stand for the foreseeable future. "I'll stop at like 20," Ella says.