Dance Marathon sweeteens with record-setting event

By Julia Turner

Contributing Writer

What happens when you combine music, a choreographed dance and tons of spirit? A dance marathon!

This past Saturday, Tech held its seventh annual Dance Marathon at the CRC to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Throughout the school year, the Dance Marathon steering committee is in charge of planning and publicizing the event. Students sign up to participate in the event with different student organizations. Each team is responsible for raising money throughout the year, and every person on the team must raise at least $30 to participate in the event. This year’s theme was “keeping it sweet for the kids.” Participating groups ranged from Greek to freshmen organizations.

“This year was our most successful Dance Marathon yet with just under 300 participants and about $12,000 [in donations],” said Craig Rawe, a fourth-year MGT major and executive director of Dance Marathon. “We set our goal this year of growing our event. We wanted the event to include more people and a more diverse set of organizations, and we were proud when [we succeeded]” Rawe said.

The move from last year’s location at the O’Keefe gym to the more spacious CRC basketball courts reflects the event’s goal-shattering growth.

The steering committee was also in charge of setting up several major fundraising events for Dance Marathon throughout the year.

“We had a letter-writing campaign where family members of dancers sponsored them,” said Jenna Castle, a fourth-year INTA major and morale team captain. “We also held a coffee house fundraiser at Under the Couch where local bands played, and we charged an entrance fee. We also had restaurants like Chick-fil-A and Steak ‘n Shake donate a percentage of their profits on a particular day to our Dance Marathon.”

While the event is called “dance marathon,” a variety of games and activities, including dancing, took place during the seven-hour event. Some of the activities and entertainment for the night included a live band, dodgeball, a relay race and dance performances and lessons from the GT Salsa Club, Tekstyles, the Ballroom Dancing Club and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.

At the top of every hour, the morale team leaders, the volunteers who are in charge of their teams, performed part of a choreographed morale dance. The purpose of the dance was to keep everyone energized throughout the marathon. The team leaders, along with the morale team captain, taught part of the dance to the rest of the dance marathon participants. At the end of the night, all the morale team leaders and participants danced the complete version of the morale team dance.

Throughout the night, the dance marathon participants had the opportunity to hear the stories of the “miracle children” who had been saved by Children’s Healthcare hospitals. Ruth Woldetsadik’s daughter was a patient at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta who needed two open-heart surgeries.

“You know, the donations are not much to [the students], but they save lives. I could not afford the thousands of dollars it costs for my daughter’s medical care without them,” said Woldetsadik, whose children were playing on the inflatable obstacle course as she spoke.

For Woldetsadik, the most important thing in bringing her children was for the dancers to see where their money is going and, specifically, whom it is helping.

Terilyn Walton, Children’s Healthcare liaison, has been active in Tech’s Dance Marathon for the past three years. Walton works at the Foundation as a fundraiser. She keeps the steering committee informed of where the money they raise is going. Each year, the money is donated to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

“I’ve enjoyed watching the program grow and maintain its identity on campus,” Walton said. “It’s also neat to see people connect with the families, come back the next year and still maintain that special connection.”

“We came last year,” said Laura Lewis, whose son Ryan was born with only half a heart. “And the boys just couldn’t stop talking about it. Some of the students gave them headbands, and they still have them!”

Before Lewis’s son had his heart transplant in 2007, he had a lot of trouble getting around and often had to stop to catch his breath.

“Now I can’t keep him still,” Lewis said, pointing to her son running through the obstacle course. “He’s just like any normal four-and-a-half year old boy.”

Many of the morale team leaders expressed how much they enjoyed dancing for a greater purpose. “I really like Dance Marathon because all the miracle children make the whole event so much more real,” said Drew Pak, a first-year INTA major and morale team leader for the FAB Runts. “At other charity events, you don’t immediately see the impact of your efforts. With Dance Marathon, the evidence of your hard work is right in front you.”

For Margaret DeGrace, a first-year INTA major who organized Alpha Xi Delta’s team, the charity was a little more personal. DeGrace has close ties to the Children’s Miracle Network after having been a patient and volunteer there for several years.

“I have a peanut allergy, [and] my best friend had a lot of heart problems, so I have been volunteering [at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta] for a few years,” DeGrace said.

While many teams relied on individual contributions as their main fundraising strategy, other organizations held specific fundraising events. FreShGA, for example, sold chicken biscuits in front of the Athletic Association for the week preceding the event. Phi Mu, whose national philanthropy is the Children’s Miracle Network, held a bake sale and began fundraising for Dance Marathon during football games first semester.

“We went canning at football tailgates and asked for donations,” said Sarah Watson, a second-year MGT major. “In two weeks, we’re doing a Tea Social to raise money.”

Watson also participated in Dance Marathon last year and has enjoyed seeing how different student organizations continue to come together for the same cause.

At the end of the night, awards were given for the top fundraisers. This year, Phi Mu won for organization fundraising, raising approximately $4,800. Meg Gunther and Drew Pak tied for first in the individual division with $225.

With such a staggering success rate at this year’s Dance Marathon, it seems that next year’s steering committee will have a lot to live up to. In fact, applications are already up for positions on next year’s committee. Interested students should check out for an application.

Or just get out there and dance—it could save a lot of lives.