As 1,000 weary participants completed 30 hours of non-stop dancing at the 15th annual Dance Marathon at the University of Michigan this weekend, they found solace in knowing that they had cumulatively helped raise a record-breaking $510,325.76 for pediatric therapy.
To commemorate 15 years on campus, DMUM pledged $500,000 to North Star Reach — a camp in Pinckney, Mich. that provides free year-round camping opportunities for children with illnesses — over the course of the next five years, and formally presented a check to the organization at the marathon’s closing ceremony yesterday at the Indoor Track Building.
In an interview before the event, LSA senior Amanda Koons, DMUM community outreach chair, said the organization sought to expand their proceeds to areas beyond just the University of Michigan Health System.
“It’s our 15th year, and we were looking for a way to further our cause, not only at our two hospitals, but in the surrounding community,” Koons said. “We thought this was a good way to expand our reach into the community.”
The more than half-million dollars raised this year will support non-traditional therapies for children with cerebral palsy, hearing loss and autism.
Alex Ham-Kucharski, a child with autism, was one of many children who were able to benefit from DMUM. In an e-mail interview, Alex’s mom, Dawn Ham-Kucharski, explained how DMUM played a pivotal role in helping Alex grow.
“The opportunity for recreational and social activities has given him confidence and pride,” Ham-Kucharski wrote. “The funds raised for (Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation) have given him a voice, strong muscles — an opportunity to thrive.”
Among therapy services provided by the organization, tree climbing, dance, cheerleading and Dreams and Wings — a program that allows children to co-pilot an airplane — are the most popular.
“(The therapies) try to help kids who have disabilities have those experiences that all other kids get to have,” Koons wrote.
This year’s theme was games, and dancers partook in a variety of gaming activities to take their mind of their sore legs. However, LSA senior Amanda Remer said the children were what keep her motivated during the marathon.
“I think about what these kids go through on a daily basis, and I realize I can do it,” she said. “If they go through it their whole lives, I can stand for 30 hours.”
DMUM began in 1997 and initially partnered with the Children’s Miracle Network to donate to Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. As student involvement increased and subsequently boosted the organization’s fundraising ability, DMUM began partnering with C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in 2000, splitting its funds between the two hospitals.
Nancy Forster, whose family has been involved with DMUM for seven years, explained she is impressed each year by the growing amount of student participation.
“To take time out of their lives and busy schedules to do this and get nothing tangible in return. It shows that there is so much love and kindness in people. It warms my heart,” Forster wrote in an e-mail interview.
The Cox family, who attended the marathon for the first time this year, said they enjoyed themselves and Suzanne Cox added she was glad that her son, Byron, had a chance to “come out of the shell.”
“We told the (dancing team) that we’re proud of them,” Cox said.
Before the marathon, Ohio State University students uploaded a YouTube video titled, “Bring it,” challenging DMUM to a fundraising battle against their dance marathon program. According to Koons, OSU raised $450,000 during their marathon this year, and it was monumental for the University to beat them at more than $500,000.
“This was a record-breaking year,” Koons said. “This was the first year that we have exceeded $500,000, and it’s our 15th anniversary on campus, so it was really powerful for everyone.”
During the marathon, dance captains for each team had the duty of keeping the dancers moving and motivated to help them pull through 30 hours of dancing.
LSA senior Amanda Popiela, one of the dance captains, said her goal was to help the dancers stay energized, assist with fundraising and ensure the dancers had a good time.
“We say motivating messages, and I also remember why I am here,” Popiela said. “I am here for the kids and I make sure that (the dancers) remember the message too.”
As a graduating senior and fourth-time DMUM participant, Popiela said it felt great to see the success of DMUM.
“We raised a record-breaking amount of money, which is really great, and I think we had a lot of energy,” she said.
Though the dancers were on their feet for 30 hours, LSA senior Megan Richards explained that the overall experience is more rewarding than tiring.
“After the marathon is over, you don’t remember your feet hurting, you remember all the smiles on the kids’ faces,” Richards said. “(After the last second countdown), it’s a combo of relief, amazement and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.”
Correction Appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the funding being provided to North Star Reach. It also incorrectly stated that Dance Marathon was previously held in the Sports Coliseum.