FGCU students, decked out in matching tank tops, running shorts and even fanny packs danced for over 13 hours to raise $52,000 for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. FGCU’s fourth annual Dance Marathon, a celebration of the money raised by registered groups throughout the year, was held at Alico Arena on Saturday, April 2.
“We started planning for the big event in the fall,” DM executive director Lindsey Smith said. “As the time got closer, we started making the fine details and following up with everybody as well as coming up with multiple backup plans.”
According to Smith, there were several differences between this year’s event and last year’s, which was held in the Cohen Center ballroom and raised $24,811.55 “for the kids.”
“It was in a bigger location with more registered dancers,” Smith said. “We feel like dancers were impacted a lot more than through the families that came and just seeing the growth that we have experienced as an organization.”
Sophomore Michael Rybak, who attended the event with Student Government, said that participating was well worth it and helped him realize that he is truly fortunate.
“I decided to participate because obviously it’s for a good cause,” Rybak said. “I think it really benefited me just for the simple stuff, that I’m fortunate enough to be healthy and not have a lot of medical issues.”
Check in for the six registered teams began at 10 a.m. The six teams — Team Cayden, Team Bella-Rose, Team Jude, Team Jake, Team Coltin and Team Aemelia — each represented a “Miracle Child” that is currently hospitalized with an illness at a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. More than 600 students registered to participate; however, Rybak was surprised by the actual amount in attendance.
“I expected more people to be there,” Rybak said. “Some people didn’t come for various reasons, (but) it looked like a lot of people registered.”
Those who are registered with teams are expected to raise a certain amount of money throughout the school year. More than 250 colleges and high schools participate in Dance Marathon each year.
To keep participants engaged and on their feet, special “theme hours” were put on, where dancers were encouraged to dress up while dancing. Character hour, sports hour, halfway to halloween hour and rave hour kept participants going. Dancers and volunteers were also encouraged to use hashtags #dunkcitydm and #ftk on various platforms of social media during the event. Food was provided for dancers and volunteers throughout the day from Little Caesars, Duffy’s, PDQ, Foster’s Grille and Wicked Wings.
For freshman Sierra Stevens, who participated with sorority Delta Delta Delta, DM was a life-changing experience.
“For the past few years, I’ve seen a lot of other schools’ dance marathons, and it’s always been something that really intrigued me,” Stevens said. “When I found out that I had the opportunity to do it here, I accepted in a heartbeat. Raising money for such an amazing cause is incredibly humbling and rewarding.”
Stevens’ DM experience ended in aching knees and tired eyes, but to her, standing for over 13 hours was worth it.
“Although my whole body was hurting after hour eight or so, I was reminded how lucky I am to be able to even stand for that long,” Stevens said. “It’s truly was a humbling experience, and it really showed me how fortunate I am.”
Smith has envisioned an even more successful DM for next year, including forming a new executive board.
“For next year, we hope to continue to grow bigger and better,” Smith said. “We will soon be sending out applications for a new executive board since a majority are graduating this year. We are all willing to help the new board settle and give them our tips in order to make it a smooth transition and continue to grow as an organization.”