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Over 17 years of Dance Marathon, $5 million raised for childrens' charities

By Emilie Plesset, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 16, 2014

For 30 hours this weekend, University students busted a move.

The University’s Dance Marathon held a two-day party this weekend at the Indoor Track Building, where 700 students stood on their feet for charity.

Dance Marathon is the largest student-run nonprofit organization in Michigan, with over 1,000 student participants throughout the year. With 17 years on campus, the organization raises money and promotes awareness for rehabilitation therapies at the University’s C.S. Mott Children’s and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital and Beaumont Children's Hospital in Royal Oak.

Throughout the year, and over the course of the 30-hour event, Dance Marathon members raised $446,399.57, which was less than last year’s $516,701.13 total. Last year, the event took place in April, giving the organization more time to raise funds.

However, this year the group reached its all-time goal of raising $5 million throughout its 17 years at the University.

“The goal is to establish a solidarity between the participants of our organization to really show our support for the kids that we stand for, who maybe can’t stand for themselves, while putting ourselves as much as we can in their shoes,” LSA senior Molly VandenBerg, Dance Marathon communications chair, said.

Many dancers form Marathon teams with various other organizations on campus. Teams raise money and earn team points by participating in Marathon events throughout the year, including a pumpkin carving event and a charity ball, where participants interact with the families and kids benefiting from the organization.

While many other universities hold Dance Marathons, the University’s Marathon maintains a tradition of standing for 30 hours. Northwestern University’s marathon also lasts 30 hours, and the University of California, Los Angeles’ event lasts 26.

Brownstown Township resident Laura Calvin, whose family benefited from the funds raised from the Marathon, said the events held throughout the year allowed students to personally interact with the charity’s recipients.

“They get an idea what the kids go through, especially my son,” Calvin said. “This is a good way to see how he would feel even after maybe a six-hour day and how he gets exhausted.”

Many students and parents visited participants throughout the event to show the dancers support.

“We want people to see what we do,” VandenBerg said. “We find that that is more meaningful and helps inspire them to donate.”

In addition to-last minute donations by visitors, participants were encouraged to use social media to share a donation website link. Some students on the Marathon leadership team also stood on street corners during the event to collect more donations.

Over varying intervals of time, Marathon leaders taught participants parts of a line dance that encompassed multiple songs from artists including One Direction, Dream Street, Grease and Luke Bryan, which they would perform in the last hour of the event.

In addition to learning the line dance, dancers spent the 30 hours interacting with the families by playing basketball, soccer, video games and earning points with their teams.

At night when the families left, the Marathon threw a rave to boost morale and energize dancers after a long day on their feet.

“There was a rough patch but the rave built me back up,” LSA senior Kallie Alpiner said. “You hit a wall but the rave pushes you over it and everyone is supporting. It’s for the kids.”

Toward the end of the marathon, participants began to feel the pain of standing all night. Many students brought tennis balls and PVC pipes to roll over their feet.

“You just keep persevering,” LSA junior Erin Figley said. “You have to look at the kids who struggle with these things and take into account everything they have to go through and overcome.”

In the final hour of the event, participants performed the line dance they learned throughout the 30 hours. Many dancers cried and hugged each other when the total amount of money that had been raised was announced.

“Watching all the families and all this hard work we’ve been doing is culminating in this event,” LSA freshman Wendy Wismer said. “It’s amazing.”