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Illini Dance for Those Who Can’t

Tons of hype buzzed around campus this past weekend as Illini students put on their dancing shoes for the sixth annual Dance Marathon. Over 500 students participated in this incredible event this year and raised more than double the amount of money raised last year, making this Illini Dance Marathon’s most successful year yet, raising $124,830.96.

Dance Marathon has earned nation-wide recognition as a fundraising event in which more than 150 college campuses partake in, benefiting Children’s Miracle Network. UIUC’s initiative, named Illini Dance Marathon, specifically fundraises for St. John’s Children’s Hospital in Springfield, Ill. The marathon celebrates the end of the year-long effort of students that work hard to raise money for the cause.  Participants raise money by hosting individual events, asking for donations and other creative tactics to try and exceed their goals.

During the marathon, participants stand on their feet and “dance” for a total of 13.1 hours to try and feel the pain that children feel throughout their journey at St. John’s. Various vendors and RSOs partake in the event to get the energy pumping by offering free snacks and energy drinks as well as overall morale encouragement. Dancers also have the honor of being able to meet some of the families that their fundraising efforts support throughout the event. These Miracle Families share their stories to inspire participants to stay on their feet.

“Spending time with Miracle Children and meeting their families is the most rewarding aspect of the entire event,” Ashley Fister UIUC junior and a member of IDM exec board, said. “Hearing their stories and the difficult obstacles they encounter everyday is humbling.”

This year, five Miracle Families received support from the fundraising efforts from Illini Dance Marathon. Although each situation is different, the appreciation the families have for those who give up their Friday nights “for the kids” is enormous. Despite all they have endeavored, these Miracle Families are nothing short of gracious. Dancers become most inspired to stay on their feet by these families’ positivity and hopefulness, often describing them as “superheroes.”

Though Dance Marathon originated in 1991 at Indiana University, it didn’t come to the University of Illinois until student Dewey Sullivan started it in 2009. Since then, the popularity of the event has grown exponentially.

The students who participate in the initiative each have their reasons as to why they get involved. Junior Rachel Cordano, a second-time participant and member of Dance Marathon’s public relations committee, was motivated by knowing she’s helping such an amazing organization.  

“Dance Marathon is a life-changing experience that makes you take a step back and appreciate everything that you have,” Cordano said. “The motivation to help the kids and the desire to be a part of an organization that helps such an amazing cause always will attract more and more people.”

This year, 41 teams participated with a total of 536 participants. Many of the teams are members of Greek community, as the Illinois Interfraternity Council is both a sponsor and official partner of the event. IFC made a truly generous donation of $5,000 to Children’s Miracle Network to jumpstart their fundraising efforts.

The top-raising team this year was Alpha Phi Omega, the largest service fraternity on campus, raising a total $7,463. Other top participants include 4-H House for top sorority, Pi Kappa Alpha for top fraternity, Veronica Mullen for top over-all individual and Brett Gornik for top alum.  

Additional sponsors of the event included Kohl’s, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Panda Express, Suburban Express and Sam’s Club. Dance Marathon would like to thank these organizations for their contributions to Illini Dance Marathon and as well as Children’s Miracle Network.

Illini Dance Marathon truly represents one of the most inspiring fundraising events students can participate in during their college years. If you are interested in participating in Dance Marathon 2015, contact the Illini DM 2015 president Alyssa Rawleigh, illinidm@gmail.com.

Molly is currently a senior at the University of Illinois studying Communication. As a self-described fashionista and retail-therapy junky, she's working towards a career in public relations in the fashion industry. When she isn't obsessing over fashion magazines or watching Law and Order, Molly is very involved with her sorority, where she has served multiple leadership positions.
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