Photos by Chris Crews and Leysha Caraballo.
On April 7, hundreds of people gathered in Halton Arena where they would dance for 12 hours to raise money for the Levine Children’s Hospital. The night marked the culmination of a year and a half of fundraising by UNC Charlotte Dance Marathon. The group is the largest philanthropic organization at UNC Charlotte, joining 300 universities nationwide to raise money for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.
The organization was founded in 1991 by Indiana University in memory of Ryan White, a student who passed away from HIV/AIDS. Dance Marathon has become one of the most widespread student-led philanthropies and in 2016, all Dance Marathon organizations raised a combined total of $32,434,341 with nine campuses raising over $1 million annually. The UNC Charlotte group was founded by the first class of Levine Scholars as “Dance Mine” in 2013.
Sarah Richardson, development officer for the Levine Children’s Hospital, was a senior for that premier 12-hour dance. Now, she serves as an advisor for Charlotte’s Dance Marathon. “It’s been really cool to see how the program has grown and evolved,” she said. The group has gone from raising $35,000 in their first year to their largest fundraising effort yet: $101,761.
The realization of the group’s goals that night was clear: the night was filled with activities and performances that uplifted miracle children, families, dancers and volunteers. Family Relations Chair Cassandra Campagna began the event by dedicating the 12 hours to Brooke Hair, a miracle child who had survived traumatic brain injury after a car accident, but passed away in March of 2017 from a complication during surgery.
With Brooke and other miracle children in mind, dancers were challenged to raise $1,000 during “power hour.” By calling friends and family and other fundraising efforts, the goal was exceeded by $652.
There were several miracle families in attendance who shared their stories throughout the night. One of the parents was Melissa Brown, mother to four young boys. Daeton has cystic fibrosis, severe tracheomalacia, a gastronomy tube to help with eating and is also hearing impaired. His brother Ryder has a VP shunt because he has an overproduction of cerebrospinal fluid. He has had 31 major hip surgeries and is only 8 years old.
Levine Children’s Hospital provides these children with crucial treatment, but Dance Marathon provides them with valuable support. “It’s fun to be here. They get to be kind of like the star and get special attention, but not for their illnesses,” said Brown.
The children and dancers enjoyed the wheelchair basketball game between Charlotte Rollin’ Hornets and a few Dance Marathon members. There was also Zumba, a bouncy house and an organized dance to keep up the morale every hour. Around 3 a.m. when people were at their most competitive, there was a DJ challenge in which dancers had to pick the best songs for certain occasions, followed by a lip syncing challenge.
Miracle child Madi, age 9, said, “I like the fun activities. You can eat; you can dance.” This was Madi’s third year eating and dancing at Dance Marathon.
The event lasted until 6 a.m., when the final amount of funds raised was revealed. The Dance Marathon directors and chairs fell into tears of exhaustion and happiness: $101,761. The group had more than doubled their funds from last year and exceeded their goal of $100,000. All of the money will go to the children’s hospital where it will be used for life-saving equipment that does not get covered by their budget.
In addition, the Levine family challenged the Charlotte community to raise $500,000 for the Levine Children’s Hospital. The Dawson, Sklut, Howard Levine and Leon Levine families will match every donation, dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 until May 17. This means that all of the money raised the night of Dance Marathon was doubled.
Development Director Megan Woody attributes the fundraising success to individual efforts. “There was a big push on personal fundraising this year and we really tried to involve all of our dancers,” Woody said. Woody says her favorite part of Dance Marathon is when they reveal how much money was raised.
Zeta Beta Tau was recognized as the largest group donor, contributing over $6,000. But the biggest source of money wasn’t any single sponsor: it was the dancers themselves. Each person at Dance Marathon has a large impact and Dance Marathon always need more help. You can get involved next year by registering to dance, serving on a committee or raising funds for the miracle kids.