By MEGAN CALLANAN
For The News-Letter
The Ralph S. O’Connor Recreation Center auxiliary gymnasium was transformed into Candy Land to host Dance Marathon, an eight-hour event that began Saturday night and ended Sunday morning.
There are over 150 Dance Marathon (DM) chapters at schools throughout the country, all working to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The Hopkins chapter raises money for the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. Hopkins DM holds several fundraising events throughout the year, including a 5K Color Run and a Krispy Kreme doughnut sale, in addition to the Dance Marathon.
Hopkins DM was founded in fall 2010. Until this year, Dance Marathon was held in the spring.
Sophomore Daphna Varadi, DM external events co-director, explained why this year’s event was moved to the fall.
“There aren’t any really big events in the fall and in the spring everyone’s weekends are really busy with other things, so we figured we would be the one big event that happens in the fall,” she said.
However, students were actually less aware of the event this year because they expected it to be in the spring. Varadi says DM stands by its decision.
“It will be a good move in the long run,” she said.
The event, which ran from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., featured food such as Potbelly sandwiches and Insomnia cookies as well as games, giveaways, a photo booth, a bounce house and performances by student groups. According to the DM website, this year’s event featured the AllNighters, the Vocal Chords, the Mental Notes, the Entertainers Club and Irish Dance. Sororities also participated in the event, giving out food and interacting with the dancers. Different student DJs played sets throughout the night to energize the dancers, who were given DM T-shirts with the slogan “too legit to sit” on them.
Each DM has a different theme. This year’s theme was Candy Land with the slogan “Let’s Make Life Sweeter For the Kids.” The DM team’s Candy Land setup included large paper squares, creating a game board effect on the floor, plastic-wrapped balloons around the room to look like candy and colorful streamers leading into the event.
Many participants were most excited about meeting the Miracle Kids and their families who attended the event. The Hopkins DM 2015 Miracle Kids are Zannah, Lucy, Eli and Julia. The participation of the Miracle Kids in the event is good, according to Varadi, because they allow everyone to see who the fundraising will benefit.
At the beginning of each hour a Miracle Minute occurs.
“[A Miracle Kid’s] parents go up and tell their kid’s story and how they were helped by the hospital and how the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center saved their life,” sophomore and DM Sponsorship Director Rebekah Kirkwood said.
Hearing the stories of the Miracle Kids and participating in the Morale Dance that is led by the DM Morale Leaders and the Executive Board following each Miracle Minute keeps DM participants’ spirits high throughout the night. Sophomore Su Ataman, who has been a Morale Leader for the past two years, found the Miracle Kids inspirational.
“We dance for the children who cannot. Knowing this and reminding myself of this throughout the night kept me on my feet,” she said.
Junior Olivia Sullivan also shared her experience as a DM Morale Leader. This past year was her second year.
“My favorite parts of DM are the beginning and the very end. At the beginning we get to meet the miracle kids,” Sullivan wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “The Miracle Minutes, where the kids and parents share their stories, make the whole event so meaningful and help to remind us all why we are there dancing.”
This year DM instituted a $100 fundraising minimum. The $15 registration fee as well as student contributions to other events such as Color Run counted toward reaching the fundraising minimum.
Varadi commented on the minimum which could be considered high by some students.
“The people who were there are the people who really cared,” she said.
The changes to DM this year, including the switch to the fall semester and the fundraising minimum, led to success this year. The group surpassed its 2015 fundraising goal of $75,000, raising $76,142.06. Ataman explained how the money is spent.
“[It] goes directly to pay the salary of a [weekend] Child Life Specialist for three years,” she said.
Varadi explained the role of a Child Life Specialist.
“[He or she is] someone who’s there to tell the kids what treatment they’re getting and explain it to them in a kid-friendly way,” she said.
A Child Life Specialist from the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center came to this year’s DM to tell participants more about his job and its value.
Sophomore Alec Stepanian, raffle and silent auction director for DM, commented on this year’s event.
“I think this was a big transition year for everyone, especially since we moved the event to the fall,” Stepanian wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “Since we did hit our goal while improving average fundraising per person, it looks like the date change worked for the best!”
Ataman explained the importance of DM.
“Even a small contribution from a large enough group of people can actually make a difference,” she said.