Derek Litts: HuskyTHON Co-Executive Director

Meet Derek Litts, one of the Executive Directors of HuskyTHON this year. Hear what he has to say about all things HuskyTHON, including his role in the event, this year’s annual fundraiser and tips for surviving the 18-hour night.

Age: 22

Year: Senior

Majors: Business management and HDFS

Hobbies: water polo, camping, yoga and cooking

How did you first get involved with HuskyTHON?

My freshman year one of my floor mates was telling me about this 18-hour dance marathon that raised money for a children’s hospital. Being from Seattle I had no connections to Connecticut Children’s, but still thought it was a good cause and being a freshman I thought the event was a very “college” thing to do (haha). So I signed up and raised the money to go. I was so unprepared for my first HuskyTHON, but I still fell in love with the event. From the Morale dance, to the activities that went on, the miracle stories, I just knew I had to become more involved.

Why did you want to be an executive director?

Well after being Co-Director of Morale last year, I completely and totally fell in love with everything HuskyTHON. I realized in that position that what we do is bigger than just UConn or Connecticut Children’s. Getting to see the event from a different side made me just really want to have the biggest role possible for my last year. And I don’t regret it for a single second. It has been a gift serving as one of the Co-Executive Directors.

What are your biggest responsibilities as co-executive director?

I would say that the biggest responsibility is really just making sure that all of our directors and VPs are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. The event would be nothing without our team. Every single person from our VP of External Relations to our volunteers make a huge impact on our event. Our event literally would not be possible if it wasn’t for everyone else’s dedication. So if one person slips up or is having trouble, Molly and I are there to make sure they’re getting the resources they need and helping them to find answers. That’s probably the biggest responsibility - making sure the management team, and by extension every one of our participants, is moving in the same upward direction.

What can you tell us about this year's 24 hour fundraiser (on Thursday, February 11th)?

This year we’re asking each of our participants to raise $100 on their own. We have given each of our participants tools to help them succeed in doing so, and are encouraging them to go above and beyond. We will be extremely present all over campus that day— from Fairfield way, the Co-op, the Union, it’ll be hard to miss us! Our mission for the day is bigger than just raising the money, but to show Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, the staff, patients, and family members, just how supportive HuskyTHON is of them. We want our HuskyTHON families to know we’re behind them 100%. There are also a ton of event fundraisers happening, from a Blaze Fundraiser at lunch to the A Cappella rush concert in Jorgensen, The African American Cultural Center’s Dance-A-Thon in the Union, Mac and Cheese Late Night in the Ville, we really have something to do from start to finish that day and we are so excited to see what our dancers can do!

What are some new things we can look forward to for this year’s HuskyTHON?

We have a LOT of exciting things happening at this year’s event! Some hits from last year like laser tag and standing yoga, classics like the wrecking ball, and some pretty cool new things like our new colors system. We’ve had a similar system in the past, but we’re hoping the new system brings people together more and creates a more inviting space for everyone to become friends. Beyond that you’re just going to have to wait and see!  

How would you describe the role of the Morale team?

Well I’m a little bias as that’s how I really started off with leadership within HuskyTHON, but I’d say that the Morale team is really the backbone of HuskyTHON. They’re the folks who are leading the dance every hour on the hour, keeping the energy up, keeping people excited to be there. I think a strong morale team really makes for a strong event. It’s what makes people say “wow this is so cool, I wish I could do that.” And a majority of the management team or other leaders come from the Morale Team. While a good portion are or have been Dance Reps, Morale is usually more inclined to apply for management. At least that’s what it seemed from my experience as Co-Exec. I believe the energy that Morale Captains bring to the event is truly what can make or break HuskyTHON for some people.

How can students be involved with HuskyTHON if they missed the registration date?

If a student missed the registration date there are still a few ways to get involved. They can donate and support their friends! Personal donations are the largest source of fundraising for any dance marathon, nationwide. They can also come visit night-of and support their friends! I’m a firm believer that if people just had the chance to experience HuskyTHON, even just for a little bit, they’ll fall in love with it and want to become more involved in the future.

What are some do’s and don’ts for surviving the full 18 hours?

Well first bring clothes to change in to, and some toiletries. You don’t realize how refreshing a new shirt or shoes can be until you’ve been dancing in the same one for four hours. Also try to get friends to come throughout the night. A new face at 3am might be exactly what you need to catch a second (or seventh) wind and re-energize yourself. And I would say, oddly enough, the most important thing to do is keep moving. Since you’re standing for so long, your muscles exhaust and want to give-in. The more you move, the less time you’ll give your muscles to really relax. Even just walking around the gym or field house for an hour can take the pressure off a little and relax your body and mind. Standing in one place really just makes the night longer. There’s so much to do the whole time, it’s practically impossible to be bored!

Which hour during the night feels the longest?

Ugh, definitely 3am. Well 3-6am. At least for me. That’s half-way through the event so it feels like the slowest time, the kids are gone, people are getting tired. Plus I’m never awake between 3-6am any other day of the year so it’s a really tough mental barrier to get through. But as soon as the kids start arriving again and the sun rises the energy comes back up and it goes by much quicker.

And the shortest?

Hmmm, it’s a tossup between the last and first hours. They’re both so packed with so many stories, thank-you’s, recognitions, etc. that it just really flies by. And the last hour with the Circle of Hope and reveal is just so exciting! Both are filled with much anticipation and excitement.

What is your favorite HuskyTHON memory?

Last year’s reveal. We started off the year facing so many obstacles and kind of in a hole that we had a lot of growth to do. But as soon as those numbers went up and the whole management team on stage was ugly crying and the entire field house started cheering in celebration. It was an incredible way to end an awesome year full of miracles. And just knowing that I had some part in that $560,104.55 is still something that motivates me to do even better this year.