It was the thirty-fifth hour of WHO NEEDS SLEEP on 30 December 2017 and I was sitting on stage with some of my best friends. The same people for whom I would gladly carry a stupid ring across the burning plains of Mordor…without any aid from Mikey from THE GOONIES. One by one they busted out their mobile phones and took turns reading the text messages out loud that I had sent them prior to the event that put them on this shared stage. Each message had a similar plea for their help with my insane idea to launch a charity telethon from scratch with less than six weeks’ prep time.
Immediately after this public shaming, VOKAL’s Ted Price pointed out that the hashtag for WHO NEEDS SLEEP’s social media was #WhoNeedsSleep2017, which seemed to imply there would be more. I honestly hadn’t given a lot of thought to it because I was too concerned with making it through the thirty-sixth hour of our present endeavor. As the camera stayed on me for a few seconds, my exhausted, addled brain spun into “How can I get us into even more trouble next year?” mode. This thought process quickly led to booking the date of Labor Day Weekend for WHO NEEDS SLEEP 2018, knowing it was a traditional time for telethons — and allowed us eight months (instead of 42 days) to prepare and set out a framework for future broadcasts.
We could have easily laughed off the suggestion of doing another one. The reality of the behind-the-scenes chaos matched any long-form live broadcast, with a lot of people who were making it all up as they went along. Yet all of us had a solid reason to keep working to raise funds for organizations like Cancer Support Community North Texas, and Cook Children’s Medical Center of Fort Worth. Each person who appeared on the broadcast, or had worked tirelessly behind the scenes, had been affected by cancer in some fashion. I, myself, was three weeks removed from my final treatment for throat cancer, the second time I’ve had to fight the disease.
Others in the crew have fought a form of cancer in their life, or had a family member who fought the disease and won. More so, who had fought their battle, and lost. It's as I mentioned a few times during the broadcast, “If you haven’t heard from cancer in your lifetime, you better go look on your back porch, because it’s not far away.”
In the last few months we have been setting up a framework to continue to support cancer fighters and their families in the best way that we know how. We aren’t doctors or nurses. We aren’t licensed caregivers. What we are, however, are entertainers. Writers. Musicians. Broadcasters. Artists. We will not be silent while others fight. We are committed to stand alongside the fighters, as well as their families. We will keep doing so, for as long as we are able. And once again, we invite you to stand with us.
WHO NEEDS SLEEP, a 36-hour variety telethon broadcast with the sole aim of raising funds for two cancer-related organizations by mixing live music and comedy performances, game shows, celebrity and athlete interviews, and special in-studio surprises. Viewers are urged to pledge money through online donations as well as bidding on auction items from the worlds of sports, entertainment, fashion and dining. Proceeds from the telethon benefit Cancer Support Community North Texas, and the lymphoma and neuroblastoma wards of Cook Children’s Hospital of Dallas.
— Devin Pike
Executive Director, WHO NEEDS SLEEP, Inc