Host Devin Pike (right) interviews DJ and music producer George Gimarc during last year's Who Needs Sleep telethon, a 36-hour broadcast from Vokal Studios that raises money for local charities working to fight and help those dealing with cancer.EXPAND
Host Devin Pike (right) interviews DJ and music producer George Gimarc during last year's Who Needs Sleep telethon, a 36-hour broadcast from Vokal Studios that raises money for local charities working to fight and help those dealing with cancer.
courtesy Who Needs Sleep

The Who Needs Sleep 36-Hour Telethon Aims to Raise $25K for Cancer Charities

This Labor Day weekend marks the second running of a marathon broadcast that's destined to raise thousands for a worthy cause.

The second annual Who Needs Sleep streaming charity telethon starts at 8 a.m. Saturday and will run 36 consecutive hours of live programming from Vokal Studios, the broadcasting hub of the online alt-rock station Fuzz Box. The online broadcast includes live comedy shows, game shows, podcasts, geek-themed panels and musical performances to raise money for Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth and Cancer Support Community North Texas.

Devin Pike, the executive director and founder of the telethon, says the first broadcast last year on New Year's Eve weekend raised  $14,000 for local charities even with short prep time.

"Last year, we organized the telethon in five weeks," Pike writes via email. "There was a lot of hard work in making it look as good as possible, and we were extremely pleased with the results."

Pike says they took advantage of the nine-month planning time to get their charity in order for a larger and more robust event that could raise even more money. This year, the telethon hopes to raise at least $25,000 in donations and auctions for lucrative prizes, such as tickets to shows at the Winspear Opera House, ice-side seats to a Dallas Stars game next to superfan and opposing goal-side staple Nick Moroch, and a guitar autographed by the members of U2.

"Once we wrapped from New Year’s, we said we would reconvene in mid-March to start a proper planning cycle and be able to recuperate," Pike says. "Of course, there were small side-channel discussions and ideas, but our first proper staff meeting was March 15. In the interim, we formed a nonprofit corporation with the sole intent of holding these events — not just the telethon, even though it’s obviously our centerpiece for the year — and the ultimate goal is to build something lasting for the future."

It's not just a lot of work to prepare for the telethon. Pike got only two hours of sleep during the last telethon, and Rob Ervin, the president of the telethon's board of directors, ran tech for the broadcast and had to stay awake for the entire 36 hours.

Ervin says it takes a lot of energy, dedication and caffeine to pull off a 36-hour broadcast.

"I was surprised I could stay up that long, but seeing everything come together and watching everything unfold and seeing people who come through and getting to meet new people, it was amazing," he says. "Just meeting other people who want to do what I do and want to be a part of something bigger than themselves was incredibly humbling."

Pike, left, and Rob Ervin, right, discuss this year's Who Needs Sleep telethon with the board of directors.EXPAND
Pike, left, and Rob Ervin, right, discuss this year's Who Needs Sleep telethon with the board of directors.
courtesy Who Needs Sleep

"It's incredibly rewarding," he says. "Sometimes it's order through chaos and sometimes, chaos comes from order. It's fun. I get to raise money for charity with people I enjoy working with, and I get to work with some more amazing people who are nothing short of phenomenal."

Pike is so dedicated to the cause that he says he plans on hosting and attending a portion of the telethon even though he's still recuperating from his own health battle. Pike suffered some serious injuries, including an entire set of broken and bruised ribs, three fractured vertebrae and a broken jaw, from a hit-and-run accident on Aug. 9, which he's still recovering from following a three-week hospital stay.

"My jaw was rebuilt after being broken in three places, and it’s still wired shut," Pike says. "It hasn’t stopped me from talking, but my diction is not what it usually is. A lot of my teeth are jacked up as well, but I won’t know how badly until the wiring is done. My doctors have said that I need to be cautious with how much I exert myself in the next month, so I’ll be there for a few hours on Saturday and for the closing hours on Sunday. Our goal is to raise $25,000 for Cancer Support Community North Texas and Cook Children’s Medical Center, and I want to be there for as much of it as I’m physically able."

Pike says he and everyone who puts together the telethon are so dedicated to the cause because "each one of us in the organization and a lot of the performers has been affected by cancer in some fashion or another." Pike himself is a two-time cancer survivor who received his latest remission news just a few months before the first broadcast.

"Our mission statement says it plainly: We aren’t doctors or nurses. We aren’t licensedcaregivers. 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," he says. "And we want as many people to stand with us and help in the fight."

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