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I came into Dance Marathon my freshman year with an attitude that I’m sure many of you shared. I was heavily encouraged by our older members to participate, and all I could think of was the turmoil that standing for 26 hours straight would put on my body and my mental state.
Can’t we just collect the money and give it to them? How exactly is standing up in a gymnasium for an ungodly amount of time helping the kids? Can I bring booze? I wondered in my freshman naivety.
My pledge brothers agreed with the sentiment. Dread consumed us as the final countdown completed and we abandoned our seats for the last time. That first hour consisted of a flurry of information and overbearing enthusiasm from the staff. All I could think was 25 hours and 46 minutes to go. My awkward lack of rhythm became glaringly obvious as I struggled through a ten-minute line dance set to a mashup of both modern and classic songs. As I became just about convinced that this was literally the dumbest thing I had ever participated in, my entire attitude changed.
I was leaning against a wall, watching the minutes crawl by, when a small child and his father caught my attention on the stage. While the child’s name has been lost in my memory after years of exams and memorization, his story was one that I would never forget.
After the staff member introduced him as the event’s first “Miracle Child,” he sheepishly hid behind his father’s leg and flashed a gap-toothed smile that softened every heart in the building. We learned that he loved trains and Star Wars. For a brief moment, I saw my own six-year-old brother in his overwhelmed eyes.
Though there were over 800 typically rowdy students in the building, the gymnasium where I had watched countless basketball games before sat in complete silence. As the father’s tone became grim, we learned that this Luke Skywalker fan had suffered from leukemia from a very young age, and that his family’s limited income made his treatment seem next to impossible.
A single tear escaped the father’s eye as he explained that Dance Marathon and the Children’s Miracle Network were the sole reasons that this two-and-a-half-foot bundle of happiness could be with us today. As every eye in the crowd began to glisten, I removed my weight from the wall I rested on and stood up taller than I ever had in my life.
The next 24 hours were among the quickest I had ever experienced. The goofy line dance I had loathed just minutes before became a joyful experience, despite my complete inability to master the leg-crossing shuffle I was supposed to do in tune with Outkast’s “Bombs Over Baghdad.” I heard the testimonies of several more Miracle Children, and with each heartwarming story, the soreness in my legs seemed to vanish. I was dancing for those who couldn’t. While nearly all of the donations had been collected before the event, the symbolic nature of it all started to make sense.
When the final hour arrived, I could barely believe it. While the 4-8am hours weren’t the most exciting in my life, I felt a tinge of sadness when my DM journey came to a close. The staff finally asked us to sit for the final presentation, and every member of the recently gathered audience rose to their feet. The miracle children smiled at us, and countless parents and other supporters applauded as the final donation tally was revealed.
It wasn’t the largest amount in the country, and my school’s Dance Marathon has nearly tripled that total since, but seeing those six figures left me in shock. This is what a group of people can do when we work towards a common goal. We saved lives. We gave hope where there was none. What I once thought was an exercise in stupidity became one of the most important events in my life.
Dance Marathon isn’t just another charity function your chapter participates in because its forced to. Dance Marathon is a genuinely fun experience where you can see and speak to the ones whose lives you are saving. While each hour hosts different themes and activities, the moments with the Miracle Children make you realize the impact you’re making for those who need all the blessings they can get.
As Dance Marathon season approaches on hundreds of campuses across the country, I implore that you find a way to get involved. Dancing in the event isn’t for everyone, but there are hundreds of other ways you can help. Get involved with the event’s staff. Donate the few bucks you’d normally drown away on cheap whiskey and pitchers. Even a simple visit to a friend who is participating in this life-changing experience can make a world of difference. Once you see Dance Marathon in motion, you’ll understand just how important it is.
Forget the social tiers, forget the homecoming pairings, and forget the petty nonsense arguments that go on between your house and the one next door on a weekly basis. Dance Marathon unifies us in the common goal of literally changing the world. From standing for 12-40 hours all the way down to simply changing your Facebook profile picture, every little bit helps Dance Marathon become one of the most rewarding experiences a college student can possibly undergo.
Don’t do it for your chapter. Don’t do it because I told you to. Do it for the kids.
Click here to find out how you can get involved with Dance Marathon