1,600 Vow to Dance in 12th Annual Marathon

Would you pledge to stay awake and on your feet for 24 hours to help a sick child in North Carolina? Carolina students have answered that question with a resounding “yes,” with 1,600 of them taking a 24-hour stand for the kids at the 12th annual UNC Dance Marathon beginning Friday, Feb. 19.

The UNC Dance Marathon celebrates the culmination of the student participants’ yearlong fundraising efforts in support of the patients and families of N.C. Children’s Hospital. The 24-hour marathon, this year featuring a “Treasure Island” theme, will include student dancers and volunteers reveling in around-the-clock entertainment from campus and community performance groups, guest speakers, varsity athletes and current and former patients and families of the Children’s Hospital.

This year’s participants also will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the greatest number people in a massage train (currently 430 people, set on Aug. 30, 2009).

The event, held at Fetzer Gym, will begin just before 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 19, with women’s varsity basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell making opening remarks at 7:25 p.m. The festivities will conclude Saturday, Feb. 20, with “family hour” at 6:30 p.m. (an opportunity for dancers and volunteers to hear personal stories of courage from Children’s Hospital families and staff). The total raised will be announced at 7:30 p.m.

The Dance Marathon is the University’s largest student-led fundraiser. The event has demonstrated tremendous and consistent growth since its inaugural year in 1998 and has an 11-year fundraising total of more than $2 million. Last year’s UNC Dance Marathon was the most successful to date, raising more than $394,000.

More than 200 students serving on 13 different committees (each responsible for different aspects of the marathon’s operations) promote the marathon and its cause at various fundraising events throughout the year. This year, committee members organized the fourth annual UNC Dance Marathon Homecoming Golf Classic, Trick-or-Treat for Kids Who Can’t, two beach music benefit concerts and the eighth annual Benefit Reception at The Carolina Inn. They also worked at money-collection drives at UNC football and basketball games and secured individual donations from UNC students in classrooms throughout campus.

The money raised benefits the For the Kids Fund, enabling the marathon to give directly to the Children’s Hospital’s patients and families for expenses not covered by insurance or Medicaid — things like phone cards to keep friends and relatives abreast of their child’s treatment and progress; parking and meal vouchers to assist families during lengthy inpatient stays; financial help to pay utility bills that might go unpaid due to looming medical bills; and Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas presents for families who cannot otherwise afford them. The For the Kids Fund allows families to focus their energy on caring for their children, and N.C. Children’s Hospital social workers have discretion to disperse For the Kids Fund monies to families on an as-need basis throughout the year.

Since 2006, the UNC Dance Marathon has also extended its reach by offering divisional grants each year to departments within the Children’s Hospital. Each UNC Dance Marathon grant adheres to the organization’s mission: to unify the University and surrounding communities in order to improve the quality of life for the children and families of N.C. Children’s Hospital. The 2009 grants funded several projects and initiatives, among them:

  • The Pediatric Rapid Response Team, enabling families to directly contact the emergency response team during an emergency;
  • The Healthy Steps Program, which provides families a specialist to teach them about caring for their child;
  • A music therapy program that helps children cope with the stress and uncertainty of being in the hospital;
  • A quality improvement project aimed at improving communication between hospital employees working with patients each day; and
  • A weekly “parents’ night out,” offering parents of inpatients an opportunity to enjoy a hot meal at the hospital free of charge.

This year’s marathon dancers will be divided into 24 teams, each led by a captain from the morale committee. Teams will compete together in a variety of events centered on this year’s “Treasure Island” theme. Dancers will be joined by hundreds of other student volunteers and campus and community members. Donations are encouraged throughout the event and can be made in-person at Fetzer Gym or online via the marathon’s Web site. The site will also offer a 24-hour online Web cast of the event.

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