WEDDINGTON – On May 19, Misty Meadows in Weddington will be transformed from its rural, tranquil setting to a tent-city where a 30-hour drum circle will beat on to fight cancer.
DrumSTRONG was started in 2006 by Scott Swimmer, who wanted to create an event anyone could participate in.
Swimmer’s son was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, with a tumor in his knee, and a year after his surgery, he was asked by Lance Armstrong to participate in the annual LiveSTRONG cycling event.
A year out of surgery, his son wasn’t ready for such a physical task, “but who says no to Lance Armstrong?” Swimmer said.
So his son participated because he wanted to give back. And that experience gave Swimmer an idea.
“The most common benefits for cancer research are athletic ones,” Swimmer said. “But cancer patients don’t always have the mental, physical or emotional strength to handle those events. But you can bang on something and make music, so the idea for this event was to create a communicative, collaborative, primitive event using rhythm, not just making music, just sharing or banging on something. Something everyone can participate in.”
And six years later, DrumSTRONG, which funds the nonprofit DrumForCures, benefits The Levine Children’s Hospital-Hematology/Oncology Center at Carolinas Medical Center, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen and dozens of other nonprofits dedicated to funding research to fight cancer and provide programs for cancer patients and their families.
DrumSTRONG now has events all around the world, and during the event, which runs May 19 and 20, while drummers play in Weddington, they will be streamed live online and participate with other events going on all around the world, including Japan.
The event will be facilitated by Arthur Hull, “the godfather of drum circle facilitators,” who helps keep the drum circle going during the 30 hours.
Last year, the event drew nearly 3,000 people and Swimmer expects at least double that this year.
In addition to the 30-hour drum circle, which is the longest drum circle ever, there will be 30 hours of yoga and belly dancing, a health expo, live music and a kids’ zone.
“This is a chance for people to feel good and get out of that unpleasant place and into a positive, pleasant place and enjoy themselves,” Swimmer said.
Swimmer explained the drum circle is not nonstop, so people can start and stop drumming as they please, throughout the event. And Swimmer said, you don’t have to be musical to participate.
“The energy, the vibrations, it’s a beautiful thing, it’s fascinating,” Swimmer said. “And even if you don’t drum, just come, watch, listen.”
Swimmer has taken his event all over the world and he’s consistently overwhelmed by the response.
“Even at events like Bonaroo, I get letters all the time about how their loved ones would’ve enjoyed it, or how their brother was ‘with them that day,’” Swimmer said. “It’s a pleasant, healthy distraction.”
The event costs $30 per person, and $50 for a family. Camping spots are available for people who want to participate for the entire 30 hours. Volunteers, which are needed, get access to the event for $15 for just four hours of work.
Last year’s event raised more than $150,000.
“I always shoot for $100,000 and am happy when it’s that or more,” Swimmer said, citing no particular goal for this year’s event. “It’s a great feeling for folks to participate and know you’re helping others.”
Swimmer said he knows this is a big event for Weddington, and for his neighbors, but he’s grateful for their understanding and support.
“Our neighbors are great and tolerant,” he said. “And they also participate. I hope all of Union County will come out to join in DrumSTRONG.”
The event kicks off at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 19 and ends at 5 p.m. Sunday, May 20.
For volunteer opportunities, email firstname.lastname@example.org and for more information about the event, visit www.drumstrong.org or email Swimmer at email@example.com.