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WHOA Teddi! Transforming the Dance For Love

March 26, 2021

There were dancers, large screens, and signage strewn around the space. There were balloons, sashes, and stuffed teddy bears donned in this year’s t-shirt. And the group was back where it all began – in Cleary Auditorium – on a cold February weekend, all in the name of love.

Teddi students in the foreground with the word

It was the Teddi Dance for Love, in its 39th year. Teddi is an annual event that thrives on longstanding traditions, but this year also included many firsts.

Held Friday, Feb. 19 through Saturday, Feb. 20, Teddi 39 was the first-ever virtual dance marathon staged at Fisher. The committee managed to raise a record-breaking $123,641.93 for Camp Good Days and Special Times.

Take that, pandemic!

While it’s true that the annual event saw big changes due to the COVID-19 safety guidelines, one thing that didn’t change was the inspiring dedication of the 250-member committee, which saw to it that the dance would go on as scheduled. Led by Emily Trotman ’21 and Sam Carson ’22, the committee spent this last year in the planning stages, wrestling with ever-changing safety guidelines, all the while keeping a positive outlook that they would meet their goal.

The guidelines did allow a small group of committee captains to be together in Cleary for the duration of the event, while hundreds of others turned to the live Zoom feed featuring creative social media challenges, done every hour to keep those tuning in engaged.

Behind the scenes, the event resembled the backstage of the Golden Globes, with eight different screens showing the live feed, a private Zoom Room for committee members, the hour-by-hour challenge schedule, live camera shots, and cued-up video messages from alumni.

Jen Wolford speaks to Teddi dancers on a large screen via Zoom

One of those messages came from Teddi alumna and longtime Teddi supporter, Jen Wolford ’99, who has returned to the dance every year to announce the recipients of Jeff Rhode Award, in memory of her Fisher classmate who lost his battle with cancer the year after his first Teddi. You could say that Wolford and her husband, Mike, who met while working on the dance, are lifetime committee members.

“Teddi was my all-time favorite event at Fisher,” Wolford says. “It is a beautiful way to bring our Fisher community together. The dance and some traditions have changed, but one thing that has not changed is the love and dedication of these students. The need and want to help these children is there.”

Wolford and her daughter tuned into the live feed, dancing in support of in-person dancers as well as those on Zoom. And while she wasn’t sure what to expect participating through her screen, the event did not disappoint.

“I loved being able to see the virtual dancers on the screen, and the live dancers did a great job interacting with them to help them to keep involved. I was surprised at all of the activities that they had each theme hour. This was an amazing way to keep them engaged,” she added.

Having seen a lot of Teddi Dances, she says one thing is clear in her mind.

“Emily and Sam are going down as the best chairs in the history of Teddi. I applaud their dedication and optimism,” she says. “In my opinion, they opened the door to ways we can bring back more alumni. Now those alumni who live in other states or can’t attend because of other obligations have a way to attend. Bring them in on Zoom.”

Club advisor and former Teddi chair Chris Keyes ’10 gushed with pride watching the committee members do what they do best – dance for love.

“More than ever, this year showed that Teddi is much more than just a 24-hour dance marathon. It’s a part of the student experience and prepares them to work closely with their peers toward a common goal,” says Keyes.

“I was really impressed by Emily and Sam’s leadership and positive attitude. They attacked any issue or problem head on and without hesitation. Their passion for the children and families of Camp Good Days is unmatched, which is why this event was so successful.”

Trotman says that support from alumni made all the difference to the group of dancers who stayed together for 24 hours in the place where Teddi started 39 years ago.

“Alumni hour was my favorite hour,” she says. “We received several video messages from alumni, whether they were past chairs sending in their line dances or sharing a positive message for the dancers. It was such an awesome feeling knowing they were there with us. We were even able to get alumni dancing with us on Zoom for alumni hour!

Students in the Teddi Committee gathered around a graphic depicting the final amount raised

“I cannot say thank you enough to our alumni for all they did for us. They helped us push through the 24 hours, and they truly made this the best one yet.”
Carson, who will serve as chair of Teddi 40, agreed.

“The alumni support this year was amazing. They truly showed what the Fisher family is all about. Their video messages were a great reminder of how important this dance is to the St. John Fisher College community. They are the building blocks of this great tradition and it was an honor to see them send their support and love.”