Here’s What You Missed at Dance Marathon FSU Garnet Shift

If you go to Florida State, you probably know what the fundraiser “Dance Marathon (DM)” is. It’s what has your friends wearing onesies and chicken suits around campus. It’s why you see at least three Facebook posts a day asking for donations, but it’s way more than that. So, for those of you who don’t know much about DM, here’s a rundown of the first shift (“Garnet Shift”) of the 40-hour-long event from my perspective—a first year dancer.

I ran in through a tunnel of people screaming and waving their arms. These were the captains who had helped put the marathon together. As my team sat down for the opening ceremony, the overhead lights dimmed, music started playing and spotlights moved across the room before finally landing on the executive director of Dance Marathon, Alex Jones. She spoke to us about the miracles we are making, showed us inspiring videos of all Dance Marathon had accomplished through the year and introduced us to the Miracle Families.

Each family walked down a glamorous red carpet to the stage with an entourage of internal team members who either danced with them, made tunnels for them to run through or even just helped them make the walk. I felt like I was watching celebrities. We were reminded that while the next 20 hours would be trying, this is who we were fighting for.

Courtesy: Dance Marathon at FSU

 

Next, the Morale team presented a video tour of how the Civic Center had been organized around us. They showed us everything: the Morale booth where we would check in with our costumes for theme hours, the booth where we could purchase sit time if we reached desperation, where to buy merchandise, the endless games and activities we could take part in and then finally the gong—the heartbeat of Dance Marathon. Anyone who raised $100 while dancing at the event would be able to hit the huge gong. When that gong rang, everyone at the event stopped what they were doing to cheer for the miracles made.

After a 10-second countdown, at exactly 7 p.m., we were all finally standing. Then, we began to learn the line dance, which is a 10-minute dance we would do every hour before meeting a new Miracle Family. All the dancers took a knee as a Miracle Family came on stage to tell us their story of how heartbreak and illness turned into a life of recovery through Children’s Miracle Network and, more specifically, Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville, Fla.

In between each Miracle Family, there were tons of things to do to pass the time. You could climb a rock wall, meet families, wear ridiculous costumes for theme hours, take advantage of the endless photo ops, ride a mechanical bull, watch a man in a gorilla suit run around in a giant inflatable ball, participate in a silent disco, dance until you couldn’t feel your legs and hopefully even hit the gong.

An especially tearful moment was when the family and friends of Holly Cummings, a Florida State student who passed away earlier this year, took the stage to talk about Holly’s passion for Dance Marathon and for Florida State University. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room when Holly’s mother played the fight song for her daughter and the entire room honored her with The War Chant.

Before we knew it, 20 hours had gone by. In the closing ceremony, Alex Jones came back on stage to remind us, “What you’re doing right now matters.” We took a knee for the last Miracle Family and did the line dance for the last time. Everyone was especially reminded of how fast the time had gone when the gong rang one last time.