When we learned that the students, staff, and alumni of North Central High School in Indianapolis wanted to make a lip dub video to support our endowment and through us, Riley Children’s Hospital, we were flooded with gratitude, excitement, and curiosity. So much effort and inspiration went into this video that we couldn’t resist writing up a little behind-the-scenes expose to recognize these amazing people.
North Central Senior Class Advisor and English teacher Leslie Decker has wanted to do a lip dub video for years now, but knew the timing had to be right. When 2017’s Senior Class Council rose into their final year at North Central, she knew the right group had presented itself. She’d already worked with some members of the newly elected Senior Class Council—Jack Morel, Joey Mervis, and Abby Peterson—on their Junior Spec production.
Junior Spec is a longtime North Central High School tradition, in which members of the junior class write and produce their own short plays. After coaching Morel, Mervis, and Peterson to a winning Junior Spec production, Decker knew they could pull off the lip dub. (Though their production won and was legendary, 1992’s In All Cerealness still holds the title for best-ever Junior Spec, according to Decker. )
In August of 2016, the Senior Class Council decided they wanted to benefit Riley Hospital with the lip dub video. They connected with the Parker family and their organization Tatum’s Bags of Fun. The Parkers recommended that the benefits of the lip dub video be more targeted, and suggested the students look into our endowment, for which we are forever grateful. The senior class officers and Mrs. Decker went onto our site one day, watched the video about Caroline, and were all in from that point forward. “It didn’t even feel like a choice, it felt like a responsibility,” said Joey Mervis. “It was such a good cause, and so clearly within our power to help. It was so easy to be all in once you understood what this video could be and what it could do for pediatric cancer research.”
Through the Tatums, North Central connected with Drake Williams and his family. Drake is the Leukemia Lymphoma Society’s Boy of the Year, meaning he’s a busy guy, but not too busy to be the superhero star of the lip dub video. North Central alumna and WTHR anchor Naomi Pescovitz also got on board, as did the Pacemates. But the real stunner was just how many North Central student organizations wanted to be involved. Decker and Mervis estimate that between 700 and 800 students participated in the lip dub video. “We decided to do a lip dub not just because the school is amazing but because our student body is amazing,” said Mervis.
He and Decker also acknowledged that the video wouldn’t have gone nearly as smoothly without guidance from Avon High School. “Avon’s lip dubs inspired us,” said Mervis. “We reached out to them very early in the process. The kids who produced the lib dub videos at Avon are in college now, so we weren’t sure what we’d get. But they emailed back right away, and answered every question.” Avon even put North Central in touch with the (now graduated) student who produced their music mashup, Chad Carmichael, who produced North Central’s mashup for free. “Truly, everyone pulled together because they saw that this video could have huge benefits for Riley Hospital,” Decker said. “Our neighbors, our community, our students. They all spent hours and days of work and time. But in the end it felt like it didn’t take much. It’s cool to see a group of teens led by a teen accomplish such great things.”
“There were times it got frustrating and overwhelming, but I’d just go back to the Symmes’ video and remember why we were doing this,” Mervis said. “We hope this video inspires younger kids at North Central to step forward and plan their own projects. If everyone is on board with the goal, it’s easier than it looks, and now the groundwork has been laid.”
Other members of the senior class council shared their lessons, too. “I learned that no matter your role in whatever you do, you make a difference,” said Kayelyn Schmitzer. “”Whether you have a large role in something, or a little role, you play a part in changing people’s lives.”
For Decker, the lesson is there to be reaped by not only North Central’s future classes, but all teens at all Indianapolis schools. “I challenge those who want to do this in the future–put numbers together and show the world what you could do. Keep the ball rolling. Get imaginative and don’t be scared away from an idea or project because it has a big scope.”
Outside the goal of inspiring more action in the community to benefit nonprofits, the goal of the North Central Lip Dub Video is clear: raise money for the Caroline Symmes Cancer Endowment to found our research center at Riley Hospital. “One of the hard things with the video is many people could watch it and not donate,” said Mervis. “In that case, we still got to show off North Central and have a good time, but we want people to be inspired to donate.” Decker pointed out how even the smallest contributions can make a big difference when everyone participates. “We have something like 3,700 students at North Central,” she said. “It just takes a dollar from everyone to make a big impact.”
If you haven’t watched the video yet, take a few minutes to do so now. We think the passion and excitement of the video is contagious, and hope it inspires your generosity. Together we can raise the much-needed pediatric cancer research dollars that are missing from today’s hospitals, and move closer to the day where no parent again has to hear the words that there’s nothing more to be done for their child.