Children, parents and University of Maine students gathered at the New Balance Student Recreation Center for the annual Miracle Network Dance Marathon on Saturday, Feb. 27.
The Dance Marathon, formerly known as BearFest, was a 12-hour event held from 5 p.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Sunday in support of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH), a nonprofit organization that raises money for children’s hospitals, medical research and awareness for the cause. The money raised Saturday will benefit the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Eastern Maine Medical Center, a local center that supports children’s health in Bangor and the surrounding towns. The fundraising goal for this year was $100,000.
The actual fundraising total of $75,253.55 was announced early Sunday morning.
Some of the activities at the event included performances by local artists such as Mainely Voices — UMaine’s only mixed a cappella choir – and the UMaine Dance Team, a bounce house, outdoor games such as KanJam and more.
“One night, 12 hours, 722 minutes, 43,200 seconds of Dancing for Miracles,” read one of the promotional posters at the marathon. Promotion for the event on social media was led by the hashtags #TransformTomorrowToday and #FTK, which stands for “For the Kids.”
A quote board was put up to ask participants “Why I Dance.” One person wrote, “I dance to help those in need.” Another read, “I dance because it makes others smile.”
“This is my first year doing it,” third-year communication sciences and disorders (CSD) student and Gamma Sigma Sigma sorority President Alison Gannon said. Gannon wore an event shirt that said “HERO” on the front. She also stated that her sorority raised almost $1,500 for the network, which was the group’s monetary goal.
Clubs and other UMaine organizations, including the Marine Science Club, also made an appearance. A fundraising team, known as Team FTK, was also present. Local businesses, such as Orono House of Pizza, donated complementary items to the marathon like shirts and phone chargers.
“My favorite thing is how it gives back to the community,” third-year international relations student and Alpha Tau Omega member, Connor Scott, said.
According to the event’s website, the dance marathons held at many universities and colleges started in 1991 at Indiana University as “a promise to a friend.” In 1984, Ryan White, at 13 years old was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS after a bad blood transfusion. After that, he and his mother Jeanne White Ginder fought against AIDS-related discrimination and for his right to attend school. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that White died in April, 1990 at the age of 18, only a few months before Congress passed the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act. White’s friends started the first dance marathon a year later and raised $10,900 for children’s health research.
Since 1991, dance marathons have helped raise more than $15.6 million for Miracle Network hospitals across the country. The top fundraiser of UMaine’s event this year was Cassandra Krummel, who raised a total of $1,290 as of early Sunday morning. The top team total was Phi Mu, a greek organization, who raised a collective total of $5,742.
“My favorite part is all the kids,” third-year CSD student Karlee Price said. Price is also the morale and school spirit chairman on the executive committee that organizes the event. One child Price said she met was dressed as a superhero whose superpower was to make people happy.
“I really can’t wait for laser tag and giant twister,” Price said.
In total, the event will be providing direct aid to 23 local children and their siblings. Children were partnered with teams from the university and spent the night doing various activities with them. The top fundraisers from each team went to dinner with the children before the marathon.
“It’s really neat to see this generation of students fighting for the next,” Program Director Kelly Pearson said. “It’s inspirational.” Last year, participants raised a then-university record of $70,599.99 in donations. All donations this year were recorded on the university’s CMNH community website.
Pearson stated that about 38 teams were registered for this year’s event and that there were nearly 600 total participants who helped fundraise.
The UMaine Dance Marathon has been held annually at the university since 2012 and has helped raise more than $200,000 for children’s health centers in central, eastern and northern Maine, according to the event’s website.