Early Saturday morning, hundreds of University students in the Indoor Track Building posed in a running stance, ready to go. As a voice countdown reached zero, the students were released and sprinted toward the stage, jumping up and touching a “Go Blue!” banner as they ran underneath.
And the motion didn’t stop for the next 30 hours of the University’s 13th annual Dance Marathon.
For the marathon, students make a commitment to remain on their feet for 30 hours to raise money for children with illnesses at the University’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. Dance Marathon, which is one of the largest student-run nonprofit organizations on campus, divides participants into teams that build relationships throughout the year with the families they are supporting.
Last year, the event raised $388,134, which was used for pediatric rehabilitation programs. Participants this year surpassed last year’s fundraising mark, bringing in a total of $425,762.48.
Participants have to raise at least $300 to participate in the event. That money is supplemented by general donations and corporate sponsorships.
LSA sophomore Gaurang Garg, who participated in the event, said he was shocked and excited to see such a high amount of money raised at this year’s marathon.
“It really shows what people can do when they put the benefit of others above their own selves,” Garg said.
At the beginning of the event, students were summoned to the dance area by a song compilation that included “The Lion King” theme song, “Jump on It” and the theme song from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” The medley signaled the start of the line dance — a 14-minute dance that the students learn throughout the marathon.
In an interview Saturday morning, LSA freshman Joshua Simon said the beginning choreography for the line dance was challenging.
“It was pretty difficult to pick up, but we have 30 hours to learn it,” Simon said.
Throughout the event, students also participated in games, viewed performances from University and local dancers and bands and interacted with their DMUM families and co-dancers. Several families were at the marathon early Saturday, with some parents and children joining the dancers and playing basketball.
In an interview yesterday, Kristina Greene, who is the mother of one of the families involved with Dance Marathon, said her daughter really enjoyed working with the students and interacting with them at the marathon. Greene said they attended the marathon both days because they liked spending time with their student supporters.
“She loves it,” Greene said, referring to her daughter. “This has been a wonderful experience.”
Business School senior Tyler Hauck, who is external director of Dance Marathon, said in an interview Saturday morning that the biggest challenge for him is staying up for the entire event, without the aid of any caffeine, which participants are forbidden from consuming. Hauck — who has participated in DMUM the last three years — said his trick for staying awake is observing and meeting the students around him.
“I feed off the energy of the building,” Hauck said.
Though the event is physically grueling for the students, Hauck said the exhaustion is nothing compared to what the families have had to endure.
“At the end of the day, it’s the families and the kids that matter,” he said.
New this year was an “inspiration tent,” which included videos, pictures and letters from many of the DMUM families. If dancers were feeling tired, they could go in the tent for a boost of inspiration.
LSA sophomore Katie O’Donnell said in an interview toward the end of the marathon that interacting with her DMUM family was the best part of the experience.
“It’s been really amazing,” O’Donnell said. “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the families and spending time with college students who are dedicated to such a good cause.”
LSA senior Jessica Brierly-Snowden, who is community outreach chair for Dance Marathon, said the selfless character of the students participating in the event is something that makes the organization unique.
“The people who have stood here for 30 hours didn’t do it to put it on their resumé,” she said.
As the marathon began to wind down late Sunday afternoon, students were called to the dance area once more for a final countdown. However, instead of running, the dancers fell to the floor upon reaching zero, as they were finally allowed to sit down.
Their enthusiasm mounted once more as the number for the final fundraising amount was displayed on a screen and also held up by DMUM leaders.
At the end of the event, though he was tired, Hauck said he was very excited about the large amount of money raised for the families.
“We try not to focus too much on the final figure number, but with a number like that, we can’t help but be proud of the fact that our event and our year went so well,” Hauck said.