[dance]An all-night party with dancing and free food. Activities for 24 hours straight. A great cause with a history of success on many other campuses across the country.
For the past several months, a committee of dedicated MSU students has worked tirelessly to plan MSU\’s first ever Dance Marathon, a 24 hour event to raise money for the Children\’s Miracle Network.
On paper, it looked like it couldn\’t go wrong.
Dance Marathon co-chair Elizabeth Heck, a family and community services junior, wanted to bring the event to MSU after spending her summer as a counselor at a summer camp for the Michigan Associated Student Councils in Albion. As the campers discussed plans for bringing their \”passions to action,\” Heck and MSU junior Jacob Custer, also a counselor at the camp, decided to do the same. \”Both of our passions to action [were] to start a dance marathon at MSU,\” Heck said.
[hall] Since then, she and Custer, an interdisciplinary studies in social sciences major, have worked to lead a group of students into planning this community-wide event. \”Starting off, we recruited a lot of our friends,\” Heck said, adding that local high schools expressed some interest in participating. \”But a lot of it was word of mouth and Facebook messages.\”
Unfortunately, the promotion wasn\’t quite enough, and time ran out – after receiving disappointingly low registration numbers, the committee couldn\’t justify a full 24-hour marathon. Instead, they plan to host a \”mini-marathon\” on April 13 in Demonstration Hall to raise awareness for the cause and get more people involved with less commitment. After this introduction to the dance marathon process, Heck hopes to get people dancing on their feet for an entire day next year. \”I\’m hoping that having this mini-event will also help us to raise funds for the future events and recruitment efforts for next year,\” Heck said.
While the event is just getting off the ground at MSU, other campuses have found huge successes with dance marathons. The concept started in 1973 at Penn State University (PSU) as a 30-hour dance competition between 39 couples, held by the Interfraternity Council. At that time, the event split its proceeds between the winners of the competition and a charity chosen each year. A year later, the event expanded to 48 hours, and it has eventually evolved into a massive event at PSU known as THON. In 2006, the event raised more than $4.2 million, which was donated to a fund to create a Pediatric Cancer Pavilion at the Penn State Children\’s Hospital.
The popularity of THON has spread to many other colleges and universities, a list that Heck and her committee hopes will eventually include MSU. \”U-M\’s Dance Marathon is one of the largest events on campus,\” said Matthew Boshoven, a U-M student who danced for the first time this year at the event, held on March 24-25. Money from the U-M event is donated to the children\’s rehabilitation program at Mott Children\’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, and each year, families affected by the program attend the event to tell their stories.
Boshoven has participated in the event as a morale booster in the past, and said the event is very inspiring and emotional. \”I was really inspired by having the kids there and seeing the effect this has on them,\” he said. \”A lot of these kids just don\’t have the opportunities.\”
[shoes] Money raised in East Lansing will be sent to the Children\’s Miracle Network (CMN), a Salt Lake City-based non-profit organization whose purpose is to raise money for 171 children\’s hospitals around the country. Four of these hospitals are in Michigan, including Lansing\’s Sparrow Hospital, which will receive all money raised at the MSU Dance Marathon. A representative from the organization even flew in from Utah earlier this year to help train the Dance Marathon committee.
Heck said CMN makes sure the money gets to the right place, and from there, it\’s up to the hospital to decide how the donations will be spent. \”Most hospitals use the money to reduce medical costs for the children,\” she said.
Kevin Gray, director of the Sparrow Foundation, emphasized the impact of local CMN fundraisers. \”The beautiful thing about the Children\’s Miracle Network is that 100 percent of the money raised locally will go to Sparrow,\” Gray said. \”What they\’re doing locally goes right back to the kids.\”
On average, over a million dollars is raised each year to benefit the Sparrow Regional Children\’s Center, the only center of its kind in mid-Michigan, which was built and funded by CMN fundraising events such as sales of paper balloons in stores and restaurants, golf outings, and events like Dance Marathon. The Children\’s Center includes both pediatric and neonatal intensive care units, as well as a pediatric rehabilitation center and a pediatric specialty clinic, where specialists such as cardiologists and neurologists are dedicated solely to children\’s diseases.
Because of the impact CMN has on children, remembering their struggles is an important part of any Dance Marathon event. Dance Marathon co-vice president Samantha Wilson, a political science sophomore, said that\’s why it\’s particularly important for the dancers to stay on their feet during the event. \”It\’s a way to show your support for the children – a way to commemorate the struggles these children face every day,\” Wilson said. \”I\’d always wanted to be involved in a dance marathon, but once they explained that it was benefiting Children\’s Miracle Network, I was very excited. It\’s something I\’ve always wanted to get involved in.\”
[dance2]But while the cause is serious, the event itself is planned to be a good time, although it will only be a taste of a complete dance marathon. Committee members compared a full marathon to Relay for Life, with its moments of seriousness packed into a fun and exciting day of no sleep.
With much of the groundwork laid, the committee would like to spend the next year focusing on creating an event that will run smoothly. This year, performances, special presentations, and free food were to be included. Next year\’s complete dance marathon planning will focus more closely on finding a strong base of event sponsors and, of course, recruiting more students. Heck said that clearing up student misconceptions about the event will help it succeed. \”I think a lot of people really just didn\’t understand what it was,\” she said. \”They think, \’dance marathon…oh, I\’m not a good dancer,\’ when really it has nothing to do with dancing.\”
However, while many of the committee\’s plans have been shelved for this year, Heck is optimistic that an extra year of planning and promotion will make a big difference. \”We will be waiting to have the major event until February of next year so that we can have more time for recruitment and sponsors to get involved,\” Heck said. \”Next year, we\’re really just hoping for people to be excited and motivated to participate and to create an event that will continue and be worthwhile in the future.\”
While a 24-hour Dance Marathon did not come to fruition this year, the success of similar events gives promise that it can happen in the near future. The chance to dance all day is a rarity in the busy lives of college students, and because it\’s for charity, participants can rock out without any criticism of their moves. The end results of all that boogie fever will go to benefit local children, which will lighten the pressure of the media eye that is always looking for examples of stereotypical, selfish college students. And besides, if U-M can pull off a dance marathon, we can, too.

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