With his cellphone pressed to his ear, Jheison Giraldo blended in Wednesday night with the patients, staff and visitors passing through the lobby of Stony Brook University Hospital.
But then, the 23-year-old Brentwood man crouched down on the tile floor, music started to play and a group of nine gathered around him. Heads turned as Giraldo and his entourage launched into a choreographed routine to “Brave” by Sara Bareilles. And when they hit the chorus of the song, more dancers joined them. The performance was intended to bring attention to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which kicked off Wednesday.
Even Dan Roberts, the hospital’s associate director of quality research and education, busted out a few moves after one of the dancers pulled him into the flash mob.
“You can feel the energy,” Roberts said. “Everyone just gets into it, some a little more than others like me.”
Linda Bily, the director of patient advocacy and community outreach for Stony Brook’s Cancer Center, reached out to Stony Brook University to recruit student dancers. She said she had seen flash mobs before -- in places like Grand Central Terminal and in mall food courts -- and thought it would be an effective tool to bring awareness to cancer.
“People always stop,” she said. “The enthusiasm is contagious.”
Bily said she knew the flash mob was a success when she looked around the lobby and saw people not only stopping, but pulling out their cellphones to record video.
Stony Brook senior Julianna Caputo, a dance minor, said the group spent a few weeks choreographing and rehearsing the routine.
“We chose the song “Brave,” because ... we think a lot of people going through treatments for different types of cancer need to be brave,” she said. “We can’t even imagine what they’re going through and we just wanted to show some support and raise their spirits.”
Bily, a 16-year cancer survivor herself, said that the hospital, in partnership with the Town of Brookhaven, is also hosting a series of free educational breast cancer seminars throughout the month. More details can be found at cancer.stonybrookmedicine.edu.
Another creative way the hospital is raising awareness and money for breast cancer research is by allowing people to “adopt flamingos” in exchange for a $10 donation, Bily said. On Wednesday night, there were 52 plastic pink flamingos perched on the lawn of the cancer center. Each one bore either a message or the name of a person touched by cancer.
“I expect by the end of the week we’ll have 100, because people walk by, they smile and say ‘I want one,’” Bily said.
The lawn ornaments will be on display throughout the month, and will then go home with their “adopters.”
Bily said projects like the flash mob and the pink flamingos help patients and their families see the human side of the hospital and its staff.
She added, “You can be a great medical center, but you have to have human spirit behind it.”