Two hundred and fifty students have decided to dance away the weekend in an attempt to raise money for the Child and Family Life Services and Pediatric Rehabilitation Service departments at C.S. Mott Children”s Hospital by volunteering for Dance Marathon, one of the University”s biggest annual fundraisers.

This is the fourth time the University has hosted the fundraiser, which acts as the culmination of year-around fundraisers put on by the Dance Marathon student organization. The marathon has become more successful every year, drawing in more participants and bigger contributions.

The idea for a dance marathon started at Penn State University, which had its first marathon in the 1970s. Since then, the trend has spread to universities across the country.

The contributions raised this weekend will go toward rehabilitation equipment for children with physical disabilities, as well as recreational activities that will allow children to have “some of the fun things in life,” said Sara Hickey, Program Coordinator of Mott Hospital operations.

The activities include discharge and transplant parties, field trips and supplies for art therapy. Money will also go towards expanding Mott”s school re-entry program, making it easier for children who are recovering from an illness to attend school.

In the past, the hospital has been very impressed with the work put into Dance Marathon and the success it has had.

“It”s special because of the patient population it serves. These are children with life-long illnesses. We”re just in awe of the students being able to do it and their dedication to doing it,” Hickey said.

The Dance Marathon also gives a portion of its proceeds to William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.

Dancers raise money by attempting to stay on their feet for the duration of the 30-hour marathon. Activities such as dancing, four square and basketball are available to keep the dancers busy, but students who have participated in past years understand that the last hours can get rough.

“The hardest part about it is just mentally keeping yourself motivated to keep yourself standing for all that time. The mental aspect of it is as bad as the physical aspect of it,” said Business senior Kyle Urek.

Moralers students who attend the marathon for a few hours to keep the dancers standing and happy by offering massages and support will be in heavy supply throughout the weekend. More than 1,000 students have volunteered to be moralers for the event.

“We do our best to keep them motivated and give them the rest and medical attention that we need, but usually we don”t have any problems with people not being able to make it,” said LSA senior Bob Stinchcombe, who chairs public relations for Dance Marathon.

Stinchcombe added that the most successful factors of the Dance Marathon are the different student groups involved in the fundraiser. East Quad Residence Hall, the Phi Mu Alpha fraternity, the Pi Beta Phi sorority, Circle K and Alpha Phi Omega have led the way in involvement and recruitment.

Stinchcombe said the majority of the inspiration comes from the families the marathon will help.

“A parent once time told us, “the mark of a champion is not when you fall and stand up, but when someone else falls and you help them stand up.” That was very powerful,” he said.

Some of the children who will be at the marathon include 7-year-old Briggs Parry, whose heart stopped beating when he was four months old. Doctors were able to save his life, but lack of oxygen caused brain damage.

Another child who will benefit is 10-year-old Sue Anne Cramer, a sixth-grader who has a severe case of cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair.

“You get to interact with them and hear their stories and hear how the program has changed their lives. I”ve seen a kid go from a walker to actually walking, and before I met him he was actually in a wheelchair,” said LSA senior Vikram Sarma, another organizer of the fundraiser.

Dance Marathon starts tomorrow at 10 a.m. and lasts until 4 p.m. Sunday at the Indoor Track Building behind Yost Ice Arena.

There will be continuous transportation to and from the event. Although participants agree there is more to the event than raising money, they are hoping to earn at least as much as last year”s marathon, which raised $120,000.

“We”re there to raise awareness about the problems these kids face each and every day to give something back,” Stinchcombe said.

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