Taylor Sharkey

First person: Dancing for change

When most people think of Dance Marathon, they think of a 14-hour dance party to fundraise for our local children’s hospital. While this is true, and the simplest way to describe Dance Marathon, for those of us participating it is so much more than that. 

Dance Marathon is a student-run organization that brings together passionate students working for something bigger than themselves, while also gaining important leadership and professional skills. 

Students involved in Dance Marathon gain fundraising experience and have the opportunity to work with a nonprofit. For staff members in particular, there are opportunities in finance, hospitality, event planning, merchandising, marketing, public relations and more. We spend our year doing all of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into putting on Main Event, the primary fundraiser.

My Dance Marathon story began my freshman year, and I have gained new skills each of the three years I’ve participated.

I attended Main Event as a hero my freshman year. Heroes are the largest group of people participating in Dance Marathon. They raise some money before the event, but the bulk of what they raise happens during Main Event.

As a hero, I learned what Dance Marathon is all about. Yes, I learned fundraising techniques, but I also learned the power of bringing people together, and that support makes an individual want to do even more.

Even after being on my feet for 14 hours, I left that event on a high and wanted to get more involved with the organization.

Sophomore year, I was part of the morale team which works with the staff to kickstart fundraising and keeps spirits high during the Main Event. 

This experience completely changed my perspective. It opened my eyes to the vast number of people impacted by the fundraising we do through Dance Marathon. It also sharpened my fundraising skills because I had financial goals to meet before and during the Main Event. Finally, I learned how to encourage and support others in reaching their goals. 

Now, in my junior year, I am on staff as a member of the marketing committee. In this role, I’m still fundraising, but I’m also gaining hands-on experience in visual communications — my future career field. 

I have spent my year making countless graphics, taking photos and helping with video shoots. It has been amazing getting to do what I love for an organization I am so passionate about. 

I will spend Main Event this year capturing the emotions of the day through my camera. Even if we do not reach our fundraising goal, I know I will have that same feeling at the end of the day because, no matter the number, we are still changing lives. 

Taylor Sharkey is a third-year visual communication student and senior designer for The Daily Gamecock.

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