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A Very Special Student is Raising Awareness One Chuckle at a Time

Shane Burcaw '14, a student with spinal muscular atrophy, is fast becoming a blogosphere star

Bethlehem, Pa., November 21, 2011--During a slow week in June, Shane Burcaw '14, decided to start a blog that would soon change his life. Five months since the blog’s launch, "Laughing at my Nightmare" has more than 20,000 followers and is raising awareness for his own disease--Spinal Muscular Atrophy. "The blog took on a life of its own," says Burcaw, who was surprised by its quick success.

“Living life from the seat of my powered wheelchair has allowed me to develop a pretty unique perspective on life, one that I hope to share with all of you!” he wrote in his now-famous first post. “I hope at the very least that someone out there enjoys what I have to say. I can promise you this much; it will be real, it will be blunt, it will be sad, it will be funny, and it will be an adventure!”

A lot has happened since Burcaw’s first post. In October, he was contacted by a publisher and has already submitted a proposal for a book. Nearly a month ago, Burcaw began selling rubber wristbands to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and already has sold more than 300 bearing the name of his blog. Rumor has it that Disney Channel star and pop singer Demi Lovato has one, according to Burcaw.

As his blog expanded and grew in popularity, one of his followers, Sirah, an up-and-coming rapper from Los Angeles, was inspired by Burcaw’s stories and made it her mission to connect Burcaw with his favorite musician, Anthony Green, the lead singer of Circa Survive. Sirah’s work paid off, and Burcaw received an email he will never forget.

“Anthony Green is one of my favorite people, and by far one of my biggest inspirations, and HE just emailed ME!” wrote Burcaw. Green said he loved the blog and wanted to meet him.

Two weeks ago, Burcaw traveled to Philadelphia to see Circa Survive in concert and finally meet the musician who had inspired him for years. He and his friends were invited backstage to talk to Green. “I was able to have one of the coolest conversations I’ve ever had with another person in my life,” wrote Burcaw. “We talked about my blog and my life and positivity and humanity and it was just absolutely unreal.”

After talking to Green, Burcaw and his friends were invited to watch the entire concert from the stage. Green wore one of Burcaw’s wristbands throughout the show.

Burcaw posts stories and pictures to open his readers’ eyes to the challenges a physically disabled person faces each day. “It gives you an inside look at what it’s like to live with a severely debilitating disease,” said Burcaw, who has even posted a video of him having his nasal feeding tube put in.

Posts such as “The Day I Broke My Femur” and “Awkward McAwkwardson” keep Burcaw’s fan base coming back for more. He receives 20-70 messages on his blog each day and gets emails from fans across the globe.

Behind Burcaw’s witty sarcasm is a regular college student who was hesitant to talk about his disability. “When high school rolled around, I started to realize that life was what you made of it, and I stopped worrying so much about what other people thought about my disability,” he wrote in the post, “Don’t Stop Staring!” “I began using my disease to make people laugh, something I still love to do today.” Blogging has allowed Burcaw to open up.

“It’s interesting because it’s not something that people normally hear about or read about,” says Burcaw of his blog’s enormous popularity. “It’s different, and I think different things are interesting.”

“Laughing at my Nightmare” wristband are sold on the website: http://www.freewebstore.org/laughing-at-my-nightmare-merch/index.aspx?pageid=1017470. To join the 20,000 that are already reading Burcaw’s blog, http://laughingatmynightmare.tumblr.com/

Moravian College is a private, coeducational, selective liberal arts college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Tracing its founding to 1742, it is recognized as America's sixth-oldest college. Moravian partners with students to build a strong foundation for their future. Visit the College’s Web site at www.moravian.edu.