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Dancers raise record amounts

Megan O'Neil | Monday, April 24, 2006

After nearly 12 hours on their feet participants in the Riley Hospital for Children dance marathon were beginning to look a little weary Saturday morning.

Then came the announcement that made it all worthwhile – Saint Mary’s had broken the record for the most money raised by any institution’s first dance marathon in the state of Indiana.

The $21,047.42 total roughly doubled to previous record held by Indiana University at Bloomington.

“It was amazing to have so many people there … at six in the morning when we released the total amount. It was the best feeling ever,” said organizer and freshman class president Francesca Johnson.

The money raised at the event, which ran from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday, will go to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. The hospital, which never denies care to a patient, receives no state funding and is entirely dependent on corporate and private donations.

“One out of every two children that walk into the doors of the hospital can’t afford to pay for the service they are receiving,” Riley special events manager Kristi Judson said.

On a scale of one to ten, Judson said, she would give the Saint Mary’s dance marathon a 15.

“We live off groups like this who stay up all night [and raise money for us],” said Riley events coordinator Katherine Cain.

The number of universities and colleges who put on dance marathons has grown to 14, Cain said. While the basic structure of the event is set, Cain works with student leaders to develop programs that best fit their schools.

Cain described the Saint Mary’s dance marathon, which was largely spearheaded by the freshman class, as “impressive.”

The participants were entertained by dancing group TroopND, a cappella singers The Undertones, Saint Mary’s cheerleaders, and the Notre Dame band Speedway. Further, dancers kept busy playing improvised games of volleyball and basketball, as well as writing cards to patients at Riley.

The morale committee kept students energized by teaching them a “morale dance” in small increments throughout the evening. The groups then performed the dance in its entirety at the end of the 12 hours.

A local family who personally benefited from the medical services offered by Riley was present to share their story with the students.

Johnson said 140 of the 190 registered students showed up to dance Friday night. They were joined by 50 marathon committee members. There were students who left the event, Johnson said, but she estimated there were still 120 dancers on the floor at the closing ceremony.

While the first dance marathon exceeded all expectations, Johnson said, there is always room for improvement.

She said she hopes to confine future events to one condensed area in order to keep the group united, noting that at any given time Friday night there were 25 people on the second level of the gym.

“In the future I would like to have a few hundred dances stay the whole time,” Johnson said.

Organizer Amy Dardinger said it was difficult to convince people to return to the dance floor after they were permitted to sit briefly in order to eat.

“For the first year, I think the marathon ran smoothly,” Dardinger said. “We followed the schedule almost exactly until about three in the morning, then we started some games. A little after three, the dancers realized that they were actually going to make it until 6, so the energy level picked up again.”