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Plainfield student creates LEGO dance video to raise money for Riley

Plainfield student creates LEGO dance video to raise money for Riley 

By Lindsay Doty

Nolan Birke is familiar with being a patient at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. The 13-year-old Plainfield Community Middle School student was born with club feet and had a series of complicated surgeries as a child.

Nolan Birke,13, works on the Dance Marathon stage made of LEGO bricks at his house in Plainfield for his stop-motion animation video he made with his dad to raise money for Riley Hospital for Children. 

“I don’t remember much about my treatment at Riley because I was a baby,” said Nolan. “My mom says the doctors at Riley began serial casting my legs and feet just a few days after I was born. Later on I had several surgeries to correct my feet and legs.”

You’d never know it. Today, the active 13-year-old runs track and cross country for his school and plays all-star baseball.

To give back to the hospital that helped him, Birke made a Riley Dance Marathon fundraising video using LEGO bricks.

Birke was extra motivated because his classmate and close baseball buddy Jack Moon was diagnosed with a form of leukemia last year and has undergone chemotherapy at Riley Hospital.

“My dad and I decided we wanted to do something for Jack and the kids at Riley Hospital for Children, so we built a Riley Dance Marathon animation,” Nolan said. “I love LEGO toys and ‘The LEGO’ movie. My dad loves animation.”

With the help of dad (who works for Riley Children’s Foundation), Nolan created a stop-motion LEGO animation that features LEGO figurines dancing, twirling and even busting out handstands to a punchy beat in different LEGO backdrops.

In the roughly 32-second video, you’ll spot LEGO Batman and C-3PO working the stage, along with the signature Riley red wagon made of red LEGO bricks.

This is a still shows part of the LEGO Dance Marathon fundraising video. It took two months to make. There are about 30 photos for every two seconds of animation. (Photos provided by Birke family) 

The project came together on the dining room table. The father and son duo used an iPhone to snap photos of the LEGO pieces in each pose, then moved the pieces each time to take another shot.

The photos then downloaded into Adobe After Effects, and they added some tunes.

“It took about two months because there are about 30 photos for every two seconds of animation,” he said.

The Plainfield Community School Corporation proudly shared the video on the district Facebook page, and it received instant snaps.

Ellen Myers Fuller from Danville wrote, “Sharing and donating! I have a few Riley kids of my own. Well done, Nolan!”

Birke’s video has already raised $500 in donations. His goal is to raise $2,500 to support Riley.

“It feels good. I know what it’s like to be a Riley kid,” he said. “I hope everyone will donate.”

Dance Marathon is a fundraising program that involves students across Indiana who work to raise millions of dollars each year for the children at Riley. 

To check out Nolan Birke’s video:




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