Despite being unable to host the event in-person due to the coronavirus outbreak, VictorThon attendees danced their way virtually to raising a preliminary sum of more than $280,000 for the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital over the weekend.
VictorThon has been the culminating event for Dance Marathon at the University of Michigan since the organization was first established on campus 23 years ago. During the event, attendees typically stand on their feet and dance for 24 hours continuously.
Each year, VictorThon raises awareness and hundreds of thousands of dollars for pediatric rehabilitation services at C.S. Mott and Beaumont Children’s Hospital. The event connects University students with DMUM families, therapists from DMUM programs and other members of the Ann Arbor community.
LSA senior Sydney Jose, executive director of DMUM, said she and her executive team started planning the virtual event about two weeks ago after deciding they wanted to host VictorThon no matter what.
“The idea that VictorThon could be canceled was heartbreaking, to say the least, because that’s really what we’ve been working up towards all year,” Jose said. “Our first reaction as soon as we found out that we probably wouldn’t be able to have it in-person was that this is a really important event to us, our community, to our cause, to our families and not doing something was just not really an option.”
According to Jose, DMUM’s technology crew helped them set up a live stream while board members collaborated to record content before leaving Ann Arbor. The group also asked all of their original participants, such as local therapists and student groups, to send in videos or other digital representations of their work. Jose said DMUM was able to recreate most of its original schedule of events in a digital format.
“Pretty much all of (the planning) was done digitally, with all of our leadership team on phone calls and Zoom calls,” Jose said. “It was definitely a whirlwind, it was a team effort. I don’t know if any of us knew exactly what it was going to look like until it happened, but (we are) definitely very, very proud of it.”
LSA senior Tosin Adeyemi, dancer captain for Alpha Epsilon Delta, said she knew she wanted to be a part of DMUM before she even came to the University and has been an active member since her freshman year.
She added that VictorThon gave her the opportunity to grow closer with her team members and create lasting friendships within the DMUM community over the years. She said this year’s VictorThon was all the more important to her since it was her last as a student at the University.
“It’s really about supporting kids and giving them opportunities to do sports and social clubs and just things that I might have taken for granted in my own childhood,” Adeyemi said.
LSA junior Max Sharin, financial management co-chair of DMUM, echoed that same sense of pride as he expressed his admiration for his team and everything they have accomplished in the last two weeks.
“It’s been really incredible for me to see our leadership body rally behind the move to online,” Max said. “I feel that a lot of people say that you can see what an organization or what an individual is like when they have to work under pressure and I feel that really came out in these past two weeks when we all worked together.”
Jose said one unexpected positive realization from the shift to digital is that it has increased alumni engagement. She said she thinks this is because the digital version was more accessible and more engaging to those who wanted to attend and couldn’t be in Ann Arbor, compared to the usual in-person event.
Though they were unable to conduct their event in-person, Jose said she is proud of her team and the experience they were able to create.
“Obviously it’s bittersweet, knowing that our whole leadership team has been working up to the traditional in-person event all year, so there was definitely some heartbreak of knowing that that hard work wasn’t going to come to fruition,” Jose said. “But, people pivoted really quickly, and we were really happy with how it turned out.”
Daily News Editor Claire Hao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Contributor Izzi Nguyen can be reached at email@example.com