At exactly 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon, 1,000 exhausted students finally sat down on the floor of the Indoor Track and Field Building in perfect unison. They had been on their feet for 30 hours.
The students were participating in the 16th annual Dance Marathon at the University of Michigan, standing up — and doing plenty of dancing — for 30 consecutive hours to raise money for the University of Michigan Health System’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. This year $516,701.13 was raised to benefit pediatric rehabilitation programs in both hospitals.
Planning for this year’s Dance Marathon began in the middle of last April, just after Dance Marathon 2012 raised about $510,000.
Business senior Jasmine Injejikian, executive director of DMUM, has been involved with Dance Marathon since her freshman year.
“It’s really gratifying to know that this is changing kids’ and students’ lives … it’s by far the most impactful thing I’ve done throughout my college career,” Injejikian said.
Teams were made up of 10 to 15 student dancers and were paired with a family that they got to know and fundraise for throughout the year. Events such as pumpkin carving, a pajama party, adaptive sports day and a charity ball all led up to the marathon.
Ann Arbor T-shirt Company, one of the event’s sponsors, provided shirts at a discounted rate, and the University’s Information Technology Services, another sponsor, donated computers to be used at the event.
In preparation for the marathon, dancers were told to wean themselves off caffeine and stay hydrated. To keep everyone entertained during the marathon, five meals were served, crafting activities were provided and massages and stretching machines kept participants on their feet.
On Sunday afternoon, Injejikian’s longtime friend Colin Northrup, who has benefitted from DMUM for 14 years, gave a speech thanking all of the participants.
“I have the confidence to stand up for myself and what I need, and that started here,” Northrup said.
Luke Bromberg, a teenage member of one of Dance Marathon’s Alumni Families who has benefitted from the funds raised by Dance Marathon for the past 12 years, said he made a lot of friends by going to the Dance Marathon-sponsored events.
Although LSA freshmen Kendall Gordon, Emily Greenberg and Hilary Forrest said they were nervous about standing for 30 hours, they signed up with other girls from the University’s chapter of Delta Phi Epsilon sorority because they wanted to make a difference.
LSA graduate Vikram Sarma participated in the very first University Dance Marathon in 1998, and returned to the event Sunday to show his support.
Sarma said a lot has changed since he participated in the ‘90s. Dance Marathon used to take up the space of a third of the Indoor Track and Field building with about 77 dancers, while in recent years the event has expanded to fill the entire building. Sarma also said the program has added events throughout the year to encourage students to get to know the families on whom they are having an impact.
“It’s a year-long effort; this is just a culmination,” Sarma said. “But the spirit of the students, the tenacity of the dancers and the warm hearts of the families stays the same.”