Dance Marathon

charles-zhouIn the middle of balancing schoolwork, applying for internships, and my teaching responsibilities, I had to make time for one more huge event the weekend of February 15 and 16: the annual Dance Marathon. People who know me (or are friends with me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter) probably got sick of hearing me talk about it all week–what the organization does, what it is , why I gave up caffeine for two weeks, etcetera. If not, read on.

Dance Marathon refers to two things here in Ann Arbor: the fundraising organization (Dance Marathon at the University of Michigan, or DMUM) and the event that usually happens sometime in March where hundreds of students stand on their feet for 30 hours (also referred to as the Marathon). We raise money for pediatric rehabilitation at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, part of the University of Michigan Health System, and Beaumont Children’s Hospital, which serves much of southeast Michigan.

A bit about myself: this was my second year with DMUM, and almost everyone in the organization is an undergraduate student. Why would I spend so much time on this? Why would I give up caffeine for two weeks so I won’t need it for one long weekend? It may surprise many, but I don’t do this just for the kids. I participate in Dance Marathon for much of the same reason I’m working for a degree in public health. I chose environmental health so every person can live a healthy life, free from worry about what’s in the air they breathe or the water they drink. I stand with Dance Marathon so every kid can have a happy, healthy childhood.

Ten minutes before the Marathon begins. All of these students will be on their feet for 30 hours when they stand up.

Our name might suggest that we’re a dance group or a running group, neither of which are true. Dance marathons actually originated in the 1920s and 30s as endurance competitions. The first modern dance marathon began in 1973 at Penn State. THON, as it is called, is now the largest program in the country and raised over $13.3 million this year (their Marathon was this weekend). DMUM is significantly younger, beginning in 1998. The Dance Marathon movement now has a presence at over 150 schools and colleges nationwide and supports Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, with the rallying cry “For The Kids”, or FTK.

Back to Michigan. The Marathon is a fun weekend filled with performers, family speakers (students are grouped into teams and paired with a family that benefits from programs that we sponsor), food, and of course, dancing. Throughout the 30 hours, we learn a fifteen minute line dance piece by piece, three snippets of songs at a time. This is last year’s line dance (since nobody’s posted this year’s yet)–and if you’re lucky (or unlucky) enough, you might see me dancing when one of these songs plays.

The end of this year’s line dance, taught by members of leadership from across the organization.

Another memorable part of the Marathon is a rave in the middle of the night, put together by our dedicated DJ Matt Styles (you can download the rave from his Facebook page). Because the Marathon is open to visitors, many people show up for the rave in the middle of the night.

The Rave!

At the end, like at every other Dance Marathon, we have the number reveal, and afterwards, an emotional performance from one of the kids that DMUM helps, a few words from our executive director, and many emotional farewells. Before we knew it, the best weekend of the year was over, and all we had were fond memories.

Not only did DMUM raise almost $450,000 this year, our all-time total is now over $5 million.

Want to learn more or donate? Please visit DMUM’s website, the general Dance Marathon website, or leave a comment with a question for me!

2 thoughts on “Dance Marathon

    • The ones that happen at colleges today aren’t exactly competitions–they’re a lot more about the cause. At DMUM, most participants make it the whole 30 hours. And besides the line dance, there isn’t much dancing going on. Back in the 1920s and 30s, there were some events that lasted for days on end (with brief breaks every few hours) and these would probably be illegal today due to liability issues.

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