Early yesterday morning, LSA freshman Erica Johnson
couldn’t resist slipping into a short nap during this
weekend’s 30-hour-long Dance Marathon.

At the Marathon, held in the Indoor Track and Field Building
from Saturday morning to yesterday afternoon, Johnson and hundreds
of other students line-danced to Michael Jackson and “The
Lion King” music while playing with disabled children.

Forbidden to sit or lay down, as the music began to die down, a
half-awake Johnson lounged around the building, desperate to
overcome her urge to sleep.

But reluctantly she closed her eyelids just for a few seconds
while she continued her walk around the gym. That wasn’t a
very good idea, she said. “I was walking and feel asleep.
Then I almost walked into a sign,” she said.

Like Johnson, at times during the weekend’s marathon many
students couldn’t keep their eyes open. An annual University
fundraising event to help children with disabilities, the marathon
requires every participant to stand for 30 hours straight.
Students’ knees ached and their feet swelled during that
seemingly never-ending span of time.

Yet despite their anguish, the students met the challenge and
continued dancing and cheering even until the last minutes. Dressed
in work out clothing with sweat dripping over their line of sight,
the students danced on, knowing they would be making a
difference.

“It’s such an awesome feeling, what I’ve done
for these kids,” LSA junior Christine Victor said.

While the marathon is only a two day event, the organization
holds year-long activities between students and disabled children.
The marathon is the organization’s main event. This year, the
event raised $248,955 dollars — highest amount ever made. At
the marathon itself, students sign up as dancers and commit to
raising $250, which goes to funding therapy programs for children
with disabilities, said Dance Marathon spokeswoman Jessica Smith.
She added that students interact with a disabled child and their
family throughout the entire year, leading up to the marathon.

But Smith added, “To the kids, it’s more than just
interaction. By participating in the marathon, the kids can have
some cool college friends. … These kids are just so happy to
have someone they can have fun with.”

The marathon is the culmination of the year, where students not
only raise funds for children’s physical therapy, but also
provide a day of fun for kids by playing sports and games with
them. Also, the weekend allows the opportunity for other disabled
children to make new friends.

“Therapy can be fun. It doesn’t have to been
grueling, painful or arduous. Events like these, they try to heal
the body and mind. They also work on improving the children’s
confidence,” Smith said.

Students said standing and dancing for so many hours was
difficult but worth their time. “The 30 hours was pretty
rough. I’m pretty tired and my feet hurt,” Engineering
senior Erin Conway said. But she added that she would never have
left the building. “I know how much it means to the families.
I’d try to pull through for them,” she said.

She added that the marathon has helped the children cope with
and understand their disabilities. “The kids, they love all
the attention. You can tell it wouldn’t be the same without
the dance marathon.”

Johnson said the event inspired her. “These kids, they
have the strength and the drive. They know they are different, but
they are able to cope with it. It’s a breath of fresh air
coming in and seeing that.”

The parents of the children said they were grateful for what the
fundraisers have done for them. Andrea Peguese said the event
showed her two sons — who both live with physical
disabilities — that they are just like everyone else.
“Everybody belongs together. You have people of all ages
coming together. Here it’s okay that everybody is accepted.
My sons are not shunned here because of their
disability.”

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