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Dedicated volunteers help drive Flulapalooza’s success

Sep. 21, 2017, 8:50 AM

Donna Tidwell, left, and Kathie Wilkerson, R.N., have volunteered at Flulapalooza every year since the mass vaccination event began in 2011. (photo by Susan Urmy)

The floors are in, the tent is up, the vaccine and supplies are stocked and the volunteers are ready for the annual 12-hour vaccination marathon known as Flulapalooza, set for Wednesday, Sept. 27.

It’s an event longtime volunteer Donna Tidwell anticipates. She has participated since the year it began in 2011.

“This is my most fun event I participate in all year long and I participate in a lot of events,” said Tidwell. “I’ve worked at Vanderbilt so long that being at Flulapalooza is like old home week for me. I truly look forward to it every single year.”

Tidwell, a 37-year employee, works at Health Plus and enjoys serving as a documenter for Flulapalooza. It allows her to usher folks through the line, prepare them for their vaccination and officially document that they are in compliance for their required flu shot. Not to mention the chance it gives her to visit with employees and students.

“I’m really good at distracting people while they are getting their shots,” laughed Tidwell. “What I love is the atmosphere and seeing people I haven’t seen for, sometimes, a year. This really is like a reunion of sorts.

“I am there all day long and see people from clear across campus. I don’t want to take breaks because I am afraid I’m going to miss somebody!”

Tidwell is one of many repeat volunteers at Flulapalooza. There is quite a contingency of regulars.

Kathie Wilkerson, R.N., a 39-year Medical Center employee, was a part of the first event too. She is one of 108 vaccinators at Flulapalooza.

“The first year I was involved because of my job in infection prevention,” she said. “But then I continued coming back. Being a vaccinator keeps my skills up since I don’t usually take care of patients anymore.

“When you give a couple hundred flu injections in a couple hours time, you sort of get good at it.”
Wilkerson, like Tidwell, enjoys Flulapalooza and continues to be amazed at the efficiency of the event.

“It’s just so organized. It has really taken off and people continue to come en masse. They enjoy coming because you are in and out so quickly. It’s always nice to hear the compliments that it didn’t hurt and that they’ll be back the next year.”

And by the looks of it, people do return.

In 2011, the Medical Center first tested its emergency vaccination plan as well as set out to break the Guinness World Record for the most vaccinations given in one location — 12,850 shots. At the end of the 12-hour day, there were 13,150 shots given.

The numbers have steadily grown over the years. Last year 14,165 people received flu shots under the big tent. Organizers expect this year’s crowd to be the same.

In addition to the stickers and the selfie station, event goers will be able to enjoy scheduled appearances by the following:

• Tennessee Titans’ T-Rac from 9 to 9:45 a.m.

• Vanderbilt University’s Mr. Commodore from 11 a.m. to noon.

• Vanderbilt University cheerleaders from noon to 1 p.m.

• Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt’s Champ from 1 to 2 p.m.

• Nashville Predators’ Gnash from 3 to 4 p.m.

• Blair School of Music Students Percussion Quartet starting at 5:20 p.m.

Also participants are encouraged to tweet photos and comments using #Flulapalooza.

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