Marathon for more than dancing

After what has seemed like weeks of nothing but rain, snow, then rain again, the sun-shining exuberance of Saturday, Feb. 20 stands out like a patch of daffodils in a mud pit. However, for the people assembled on the fourth floor of the CRC at 5 p.m. the weather was not the only reason the day stood out among others; it was also the day of Tech’s seventh annual Dance Marathon.

Dance Marathon (DM) is a national non-profit organization that raises money for Children’s Healthcare Network (CHN). The goal of the night is to dance for the kids who can’t dance for themselves.

Here at Tech, the night consists of watching the stories of the CHN’s Miracle Children, learning the year’s “morale dance” and playing games and competing in sports tournaments, among other activities.

The view from above the CRC’s basketball court showed swatches of purple, green, yellow, blue and pink bounced and bobbed around the basketball courts while music from radio station wbts 95.5 the Beat blasted from speakers by a stage set up in front of the ping pong rooms. The colors represented the different DM teams, five in all, and from balloons that several people were playing with in the down time.

“We’re going to pop them when we start, and one of them has our miracle child’s name in it,” said Amy Rankin, a second year biology major who was the one of the morale leaders for Team Yellow. Rankin decided to be a morale leader after coming to Dance Marathon last year and loved watching the morale leaders get everyone pumped up and teach the morale dance.

This dance, though not similar in choreography, is a common theme at Dance Marathons around the country.

“Every school’s [event] looks a little different, but the Morale Dance is universal. At the National Conference everyone performs theirs so the other schools can see it,” said Zack Johnson, the National Director of DM.

Lexie Baughn, third-year BIO, and Bradston Henry, fourth-year ME, were in charge of this year’s dance and served as morale team co-captains.

“We oversee the morale team leaders, there’s about two to three of them per team, and we’re kind of like the face of the event,” said Baughn.

Despite the title of the marathon, dancing isn’t all that goes on during the night.

There was also a band that played, dodgeball games, tug and a cornhole tournament. DM also offered participants a chance to participate in Dance, Dance Revolution and compete against other participants in Guitar Hero.

Apparently DM has a way of inspiring people, no matter their original reasons for coming to the event.

Daniel Gallagher, a second-year ChemE and BME, also decided to get more involved with the planning process after coming last year. He helped to organize the fundraising that the steering committee does throughout the year like tailgates during the football season.

This year, they even got together with the DM planners from UGA for a tailgate: “Teaming Up for the Kids.” In addition, the committee organized an Open Mic Night and a Steak and Shake Night to help raise more money.

The committee’s hard work throughout the year as well as the efforts of everyone who came to the big night definitely paid off.

“We ended up raising $15,669.77, which is almost $4,000 more than last year,” said Ashleigh Griffin, a fourth year civil engineer and Executive Director of the steering committee.

A few more factors were changed for this year’s program, including the duration (increased by three hours) and a new dance-off competition.

Registered participates could choose to take a number and try to stay on their feet for the entire ten hours of the night. Those who remained standing competed at having best mastered the morale dance. The winner, Will Hackett a fourth-year EnvE, won two AirTran tickets for his stamina.

In accordance with Dance Marathon’s procedures all $15,669.77 will be going to Hugh Spaulding Hospital.

Tech isn’t alone in increases in fundraising, many schools across the country also contribute. As Johnson pointed when the night kicked-off, most non-profit organizations are down by about 6-7% in their fundraising while DM is up by 18%, all of which can go straight to the 170 hospitals around the U.S. and the world that treat 17 million children each year.

A few of those children are able to make it to Tech’s Dance Marathon every year; some of them are the “Miracle Children” that Children’s chooses every year while others are ones that volunteer to come tell (or have their parents tell) their stories.

“We’re much smaller than other schools, but we definitely impress with what we can do being on an urban campus,” said Griffin when asked about how Tech compares with other schools.

Johnson agreed and said, “I always use Tech as an example for other schools with non-traditional campuses to show how the event can work.”

Next year’s steering committee applications are already up, so interested students can learn more .