At noon last Saturday, Feb. 9, over 200 people danced the day and night away for a worthy cause—helping children who need medical care. Tech’s fifth annual Dance Marathon had officially begun.
Thirty minutes later, young Albin Blunt-Alcantra got up on stage and introduced himself. Standing next to his mother, the upbeat boy told Dance Marathon participants of his medical struggles and the journey through Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Serving as an official opening, Blunt-Alcantra’s story reminded participants of the chief beneficiaries of their efforts. Dance Marathon is “for the kids.”
Michael Casner introduced the concept of hosting a Dance Marathon to Tech’s campus in 2003. Casner had heard of similar events at other universities. The first Dance Marathon was hosted on Mar. 19,2004 by the Lambda Sigma sophomore honor society. Dance Marathon has since become an independent organization. Craig Rawe, one of the members of the steering committee, commented on the growth of the organization.
“[I hope] it will become one of the more established philanthropy organizations, up there with TEAMBuzz and [Tech Beautification Day],” Rawe said.
Another one of the organizers, Kevin Bell, described what distinguishes Dance Marathon at Tech from those at other schools.
“The event is just…a chance for the kids to have some fun and hang out with college students…people just understood that [the kids are] the purpose of what we do,” Bell said.
To help understand this purpose, organizers called on many Children’s Healthcare patients to speak.
“We call these Miracle Families, and they are basically the families who tell the stories of what their kids have overcome and how the hospital has helped them through all that,” Bell said.
The proceeds benefit Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, a network of hospitals that includes Egleston, Scottish Rite and Hughes Spalding. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is part of Children’s Miracle Network, which treats all patients under 21 years of age. The funds raised through Dance Marathon are used to cover the cost of patient care.
Children’s Healthcare is unique in its devotion to children and their families. Miracle Child Chelsea Ashworth described the child-centered environment at Children’s Healthcare.
“I don’t want to call the hospital a fun place…but Children’s was a good place to be,” Ashworth said. In terms of family support, parent Lisa Olendahl said, “They’ve just held our hand through the entire process.”
Throughout the event, organizers included activities that kept dancers engaged; along with each story from a Miracle Family, dancers learned an additional installment of the Morale Dance; the Morale Dance energized dancers and allowed everyone an opportunity to laugh.
Dancers could even compete in a marathon, in which dancers pinned paper numbers to their shirts and pledged to dance for the entire event; it concluded with a dance-off judged by Big Rob of 95.5 The Beat.
Local dance organizations came out to excite dancers with demonstrations and lessons. Tech’s Gold Rush Dance Team performed a routine before joining dancers in an installment of the Morale Dance, while the Tech Salsa Club demonstrated and taught their own dance.
The Tiny Bunch dance troupe performed a swing dance routine, followed by a lesson in swing dancing from Ben Lovelace of Down South Swing.
Organizers included a number of activities for those who did not want to dance. Musically inclined participants could compete in a Rock Band tournament, while others competed in a poker tournament. To let everyone rest, there was a musical performance by Kyle Wyley and a dance by the Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders.
“It’s a really great event and everyone is having lots of fun,” said Cyndi Jackson, one of the dancers.
Dancers each wore a colored headband corresponding to their morale team. Each morale team had a leader who provided support for fundraising and linked dancers to the Dance Marathon Steering Committee, the group behind the whole event.
During the event, morale teams competed against one another to display the greatest team spirit, with the winner taking possession of a Spirit Stick.
The largest morale team this year was the Pink Team from Phi Mu, with over 100 members. The team that brought in the largest sum of money was the Blue’s Clues Crew, which consisted mainly of members of FIJI. They raised $18,143.50.
Last year, Dance Marathon raised a total of $19,384.
“We implemented a lot of changes…not only [to] the structure of the event, but the fundraising as a whole. People were more dedicated,” Rawe said.
At the end of the night, the total donation amounted to over $34,000 to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.