During the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chris Kopec threw a little basement dance party to cheer up his family.

The 2000 graduate of Virginia Tech and part-time DJ ended up lifting the spirits of millions around the globe and is now nearing $1.5 million in funds and resources raised for charities.

“We were pretty stressed out as a family that first week when the kids were out of school, so I decided to fire up the DJ gear and head down to the basement for a dance party,” said Kopec, who lives just southwest of Baltimore, Maryland. “I jumped on my personal Facebook page, figured we would have 50, maybe 100 people max join us … we had over 26,000 in two hours."

The viral event on March 21 led Kopec to plan more online dance parties that have been viewed by millions across the United States and around the world. The success of the parties also prompted Kopec to use the events as fundraising tools, which have raised money and other resources for a long list of charities since March.

To cap the year’s philanthropic efforts, Kopec has partnered with the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore for the “Stuff the Train” hybrid in-person and virtual toy drive. Between now and Dec. 5, donors can drop off new, unopened toys at the museum, located at 900 West Pratt Street in Baltimore, or shop online via an Amazon wish list. On Dec. 5, Kopec will livestream a holiday-themed dance party from the museum, while accepting monetary donations to support buying additional toys, as the museum’s “Reindeer Railway” train is packed with toys.

“Music has always brought people together for great causes. I’ve never deejayed and left an event without a huge smile on my face,” said Kopec. “Stuff the Train offers an opportunity for 20,000 Maryland children to wake up Christmas morning with a smile on their face as well.”

Gifts collected through Stuff the Train will be distributed to children across the state of Maryland through partner organizations including the United Way of Central Maryland, Greater Chesapeake Charitable Foundation, Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, and a number of shelters and emergency housing centers.

Kopec is no stranger to giving back to his community, in fact it’s part of what drew him to Virginia Tech.

“You know, Ut Prosim, that was really the way I was brought up. I think that’s part of why I loved Virginia Tech so much while I was there,” Kopec said. “For a while, I wasn’t even going to go to college, but once I got there, I fell in love with the school. Virginia Tech changed my life.”

While at Tech, Kopec was not only a member of the Hokies track and field and cross country teams, but also a member of the Blacksburg Volunteer Fire Department. When he began to notice the online tip jar filling up during that first dance party, he immediately thought of paying it forward to first responders. Along with raising hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of resources for a variety of charities, proceeds from the virtual dance parties have also fed hundreds of firefighters, 9-1-1 center operators, and law enforcement members in Howard County, the area where Kopec lives with his wife, April, and their children, Logan, Maddie, and Declan.

“Helping people is what we started this for, and it’s been a great stress reliever for our family. We’ve felt like it was our duty to keep that going the whole time we’re quarantined,” Kopec said.

Keep up with all of Kopec’s dance parties and philanthropic efforts on his website and Facebook page.

— Written by Travis Williams