The University of South Carolina Dance Marathon announced its $1,016,822 million fundraising total for Prisma Health Children’s Hospital on Saturday at its main event in the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center.
Dance Marathon is the largest student-run philanthropic organization at the university. The main event is an annual 14-hour long fundraiser for the local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in Columbia.
Dance Marathon announced its $1.1 million fundraising goal and campaign theme on Sept. 25, 2019. The organization’s vice president of communications, Julian Masters, elaborated on the 2020 campaign theme: More Than.
“More than just a fundraiser, more than just a day, it’s a whole year,” Masters said.
The third-year retailing student also reflected on the growth of Dance Marathon she has witnessed over her past three years of involvement with the organization.
“It started to grow and grow, and even alumni from last year have come back and are like, ‘Wow, it’s really changed' because every year the expectation is heightened and every year we realize we want to do more and we want to make more of an impact,” Masters said. “Not only do we grow with our fundraising goal, but we grow in every other way.”
Over 800 participants, called “heroes,” arrived by 10 a.m. Saturday for the opening ceremonies, which included videos explaining the creation and purpose of Dance Marathon and Dance Marathon’s Morale Team's performance of their self-choreographed line dance.
Second-year international business student Campbell Smith was excited to return to main event as a hero this year.
“I love it, it’s so much fun. I did it last year. It was probably one of the most fun things I did as a freshman, so I’m glad to be back,” Smith said.
Throughout the day, the heroes were invited to participate in various activities inside Strom. Inflatable obstacle courses and games were available on the second floor, while a silent disco, video games and Group X classes were held on the first floor.
Another hero, Rob Choisser, attended Dance Marathon's main event for the first time Saturday.
“It’s been incredible seeing all these people from different backgrounds, different stories, come together and raising money for one cause that we all know is perfect for this university as well as the community. It’s incredible to see it just come to fruition,” Choisser said.
Music and dancing were a large part of the event. The Morale team held small practice sessions throughout the day to teach the line dance to all of the heroes. The University of South Carolina Cheerleaders and the Carolina Girls performed as well.
Various individuals spoke to the heroes throughout the day. Miracle families, which are families with children who have been patients at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital, spoke to the attendees, giving personal testimonies about their experiences at the hospital and the impact that Dance Marathon has had on them. University President Bob Caslen, Student Body President Luke Rankin and child life specialists from Prisma Health Children's Hospital spoke at the event as well.
While the fundraising culminated at the main event, participants began fundraising for Dance Marathon during the fall of 2019. On Saturday, themed fundraising hours, special fundraising challenges and fundraising incentives all encouraged students to work to reach both their own personal fundraising goals and the organization’s cumulative goal throughout the day.
Risk management and insurance student Alyssa Brown, a member of the Ignite program, which allows interested students to shadow individuals on the Dance Marathon staff and Morale Team, reflected on the organization’s fundraising efforts before and during the main event.
“It’s been such a long time, and I don’t think it’s really easy to see an end goal when you first start … It’s super rewarding to see every literal hour it goes up by so much,” Brown said.
At the end of the night, while the organization did not reach its intended fundraising goal for the year, it celebrated the $1,016,822 million it raised and all that it had accomplished over the past year with a final group line dance.