Viral Video Garners Shane Burcaw ’14 Emmy Award
Moravian College Senior Becomes Recognizable Face Thanks to Internet Fame
Moravian College senior Shane Burcaw knows all too well the stardom that accompanies being in a viral online video. In fact, you know a person’s reached celebrity status when they’re cornered by a well-meaning fan – and complete stranger – for minutes on end inside a Cracker Barrel eatery. This scene actually played out for Burcaw just a few weeks ago in State College.
It’s possible if you haven’t seen Burcaw’s video, “Happiness is Always an Option,” you might be the only one who hasn't. It’s a truthful six-minute glimpse into Burcaw’s life with spinal muscular atrophy type II, featuring the same fun-loving tone that helped his blog, Laughing At My Nightmare, become a world-wide phenomenon. The video, which has received hundreds of thousands of views thanks to promotion on reddit.com, wimp.com and upworthy.com, is eye-opening to say the least.
“Happiness is Always an Option” can also be called award winning, having been presented with a Mid-Atlantic Emmy® Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Sept. 7. Burcaw and FireRock Productions, the local video production company that partnered with Burcaw to make the video, received the award in the “Human Interest - Program Feature/Segment” category.
“This video blew my expectations out of the water,” says Burcaw. “Whenever I put something out there, I always have this fear that it won’t do well, or that it won’t be as popular as I would like it to be. But this video has been bigger than I could have imagined.”
The video wasn’t just produced for popularity, but for a real purpose: growing Burcaw’s nonprofit called Laughing At My Nightmare, Inc. Teaming with his cousin, Sarah Burcaw ’13, Shane decided following the success of his blog to form a nonprofit organization to encourage individuals to remain positive in the face of adversity.
“I started the blog basically because I wanted to make people laugh and share my story, being honest about my disease,” he says. This honesty led to thousands of followers and an inbox full of emails from all over the world explaining how his message was inspiring others to live more positive lives. It was this response that led the cousins to form a nonprofit to take the blog’s message to a broader audience.
Almost every time I go out of my house into the public, someone comes up and tells me they saw my video. It has been really amazing."
– Shane Burcaw '14
Fast forward to summer 2012, Shane and his friend, Shannon O'Connor, conceived the idea to raise awareness – and hopefully donations – for the nonprofit through a video, and while they knew the message they’d want to share, the means to produce it was outside their skills. On a whim, Burcaw emailed 5-10 productions, explaining their idea, but noting they didn’t have the finances to support it. Weeks went by with no word. Then came a few denials.
That’s when Julia and Rocky Urich of FireRock stepped in, offering their services without charge. With a production team in place, which would handle the filming, directing and editing, Burcaw and O'Connor were charged with writing the script. After taping the video in August and a few months of editing, “Happiness is Always An Option” was released – and the internet took notice.
“The video really blew up and resulted in a ton of donations to the nonprofit,” Burcaw says, “We received a lot of activity on the website, a lot of messages, and a lot of new volunteers.”
“It really made the nonprofit more of a recognizable name, and now almost every time I go out of my house into the public, someone comes up and tells me they saw my video. It has been really amazing, and totally surreal.”
For more information about Burcaw’s nonprofit, Laughing At My Nightmare, Inc., a fully registered 501(c)(3) organization, visit www.laughingatmynightmare.com.
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