Augustana Dance Marathon broke fundraising records and goals to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network
Students spent 10 hours Saturday wearing dancing shoes and optimistic smiles to celebrate the lives of children, for whom they raised money with the help of an organization whose motto says it all: “We Stand For Kids Who Can’t.”
The Dance Marathon took place in the Elmen Center on Saturday, April 13, from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. About 140 people signed up, ready to stand for the kids helped by their tremendous donations.
The Dance Marathon is a non-profit organization that works with high school and college students to raise money for local children’s hospitals through the Children’s Miracle Network.
This year’s goal was to raise $15,000; donations resulted in a grand total of $17,020.98, the most raised in three years. The money was given to Sanford Children’s Castle of Care Hospital.
Dancers created online profiles when registering for the Dance Marathon, allowing donors give their money online. Additionally, over $600 was raised at the Mr. Augustana pageant on March 27 and was then donated to the Dance Marathon cause.
Eleven families were there with children who have received donations from Children’s Miracle Network, five of whom told their stories.
“When you actually got to hear the families [say], ‘Because of the money you guys raised…my child is still alive,’ that’s powerful stuff,” junior Chris Underhill said. “After hearing every story, I knew what I was doing was good.”
Freshman Jenna Varilek, who also participated, agreed that these stories were powerful: “You sit there and think, ‘What if that was my child?’” she said. “It breaks your heart. It’s one thing to read it in the newspaper, but to meet these people and hear them in their vulnerable state, it all really hits you.”
The Dance Marathon committee began teaching the dancers a routine called the “Morale Dance” at the beginning of the day and continued in pieces throughout the event. “I think it was a way to engage us for the whole time,” Underhill said.
“It seemed tedious at the time, but when we got to put it all together, it was so cool,” Varilek said.
After so many hours of dancing, participants were exhausted. Despite their fatigue, both Underhill and Varilek stayed to dance the entire time.
“I wasn’t obligated to stay, but halfway through, I decided I needed to stay for the full 10 hours,” Underhill said. “These people needed my enthusiasm. I felt like it was something I could give to the program.”
Varilek’s motivation to “stand for kids who can’t” was incredibly personal.
“Children’s Miracle Network helped my best friend [Sam] who died from cancer, so that obviously holds a huge place in my heart,” she said.
“I know how much it means to those families, so that kept me going.”
When the Morale Dance was put together and performed for the last time at the end of the night, the children turned over giant number cards, revealing the total money raised.
“Seeing the kids turn the numbers around was so cute because they’re the ones [the money] will help,” Varilek said. “The best part was just seeing the joy in the parents’ and kids’ faces. That was so rewarding.”