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Terp Thon Goes Virtual in 2021

Like many student organizations, Terp Thon is adapting to a virtual environment this year while still hosting their annual fundraising events for the Children’s National Hospital. Their biggest event of the year, a 12-hour Miracle Network Dance Marathon held in early March, will be held virtually with a possible in-person component if coronavirus restrictions allow it. 

Terp Thon’s dance marathon is normally held at the Reckord Armory on campus and includes many activities like a choreographed dance, games and stories from patients at Children’s National Hospital. This year, these activities will be online. 

“We’re trying to bring as many of those aspects … having stories from previous or current patients from the hospital and having interactive games, having dancing, having fundraising — incorporate all those aspects into a virtual event,” said Terp Thon Executive Director Jackie Blair. 

Transitioning a 12-hour dance marathon into a virtual event is no small feat. According to Blair, Terp Thon is still working out the details. 

“What we're thinking right now is that we will stick with our 12-hour event, but most likely it won't be 12 straight hours of virtual content,” Blair said. 

The plan is to break up the event into sections — one section will be for teaching the choreographed dance, another will be a break to eat a meal and another for hearing a story from a patient at the hospital and one for a fundraising challenge, according to Blair. 

Participants are encouraged to join the event in teams. Teams may include members of  greek life, an on-campus student organization, a residence hall or even just a group of friends to make the event more enjoyable. Individuals are also welcome to participate.

Registration is free and participants do not have to pledge any money but are given a goal to raise $120. Incentives like an event T-shirt, snacks and access to special games have been awarded in the past for meeting fundraising goals, said Blair. 

“This year, the details aren't finalized, but people that do raise that $120 that we set as a goal will still receive an event T-shirt and will receive other fun prizes in like a little package that could either be picked up on campus or sent to their house so that they can still participate in our dance marathon event from the safety of their home or wherever they may be,” Blair said. 

Participation has been lower than normal this year, given the circumstances, but Blair said Terp Thon’s goal is still to help the children and families at Children’s National Hospital. 

“We really just want to unite our campus in this passion, so that we can make the biggest impact possible on the children at the hospital who, this year, really do need our support more than ever with philanthropic funding or just with kind words of encouragement through letters — whatever it may be,” Blair said. “The hospital and the patients are greatly in need this year, so we just want to provide that support through as many people as possible.” 

Terp Thon’s Fundraising Chair Matt Herskovitz echoed Blair’s sentiment on the goal of the organization. 

“Something else that's really being shown now is just how important every donation is or every participant has become,” Herskovitz said. “We always say ‘for the kids’ — we say it all the time — but now when things are really so dire, it means more than it ever really has.” 

With fewer people on campus and many people in difficult financial situations due to the pandemic, Terp Thon is offering more ways to get involved that do not require donations, like increasing awareness for the services the Children’s National Hospital provides and illnesses that patients at the hospital are fighting, according to Herskovitz. 

Terp Thon also lowered their fundraising goal for their Day of Miracles event in early November and is discussing altering their fundraising goals for the dance marathon, according to Herskovitz. 

“It’s just been encouraging to see what people have been able to do and I don’t take any of that for granted this year,” Herskovitz said.

Herskovitz emphasized that Terp Thon does a lot of fundraising, but there are other ways to be involved and support Children’s National Hospital that do not involve money. 

“I'd say for anyone hesitant to join, if you care about children's health… this is a good first step to getting involved,” he said. “I really think it's one hospital, it's one community, it's one demographic of the community — it’s children — but, you know, it's important we help take care of them in whatever way we can.”

Natalie Adams

Maryland '23

Natalie Adams is a journalism major at UMD.
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