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Students dance to raise funds

Bridget Meade | Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dedicated students spent 12 hours on their feet to benefit Riley’s Children’s Hospital Saturday at the Saint Mary’s College-Notre Dame Dance Marathon, held from noon to midnight at the Angela Athletic Facility.

Dance Marathon President Katie Fadden said more than 500 Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame and Holy Cross students and community members attended the event. Families of children who are treated by Riley’s Children’s Hospital also attended and were invited to speak about their experiences with Riley’s.

“We had eight different families speak throughout the night,” she said. “Hearing the families’ stories is a great way to inspire the participants and also to remind them why they are here.”

In its sixth year, the event raised more than $63,000 for the hospital.

The marathon’s theme of “Under the Sea” was carried through the event’s decorations, games and prizes. The entertainment for the night included performances from Troop ND, Notre Dame student Zach Dubois, Bellacapella and Notre Dame Alum Pat McKillen, as well as relay races, inflatables and carnival games.

Executive committee member Caitlyn Wonski said the event’s attendance was higher than previous years because of the increased number of families present at the marathon. In previous years, the twelve-hour marathon was held from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

“The time change allowed for more Riley’s kids and families to attend the event,” she said. “That was really important to us because we do this all for the kids, and we want them to be able to enjoy the marathon as well.”

Wonski explained that holding the marathon at an earlier hour also helped with the morale of the marathon.

“I definitely saw a different in the physical activity levels of the dancers,” she said. “It’s easier to dance for 12 hours when you are dancing in the afternoon and evening rather than the early hours of the morning.”

South Bend restaurants Chipotle, Papa Vinos, Subway, Jimmy John’s, Hot Box Pizza and Geno’s East Pizza donated food to the marathon.

Along with the time change, this year’s marathon had other improvements. The Notre Dame Pre-Professional Society joined the executive committee, making the event officially shared by Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame.

“The Pre-Professional Society played a huge role in recruiting Notre Dame students,” Wonski said. “We saw an increase in the number of Notre Dame students participating, and we hope to see that number continue to increase in the future.”

A new Dance Marathon fundraising website was also established, which allowed participants to gather donations online from family and friends. Wonski said the website made donating faster and easier and lead to an increase in donations from non-participants.

Fundraising and planning for the event began in the fall. The Dance Marathon committee hosted several fundraising activities throughout the school year, including the Trot for Tots, a bowling night at Strike’s and Spares and numerous giveback nights at local restaurants, among other events. The SMC-ND Dance Marathon committee also oversees various “mini-marathons” at local high schools.

Junior Stephanie Cherpak attended the event as a dancer and was pleased with the marathon’s atmosphere.

“It was upbeat and energetic,” she said. “And it was so great to see so many people coming together for a great cause like Riley’s. You could sense the passion and love in everyone present.”

Fadden said the increased energy, as well as participation and fundraising, are things that the committee plans to continue to improve on in the future.

“We’ve gotten great feedback all around,” she said. “So we really just want to keep building every year and continue to do anything and everything we can to help the Riley’s kids.”