Students dance all night for children’s health

The Unlimited Dance Marathon will fundraise for new rooms at Amplatz Children’s Hospital.

Members of the Dance Marathon Leadership Team talk Monday about the upcoming event at Bierman Field Athletic Building. The event is this Saturday and Sunday at Mariucci Arena.

Holly Peterson

Members of the Dance Marathon Leadership Team talk Monday about the upcoming event at Bierman Field Athletic Building. The event is this Saturday and Sunday at Mariucci Arena.

Nate Gotlieb

Many pediatric patients at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital walk the halls to regain their strength during recovery.

Richie Lange followed this routine almost daily during his 60-day stay last year for Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.

Now, the 12-year-old is helping raise funds so future patients can recover in a more kid-friendly area.

Lange will attend the University of Minnesota’s Unlimited Dance Marathon on Saturday at Mariucci Arena. The student- and student-athlete-planned event runs from 6 p.m. Saturday through 6 a.m. Sunday, with proceeds going toward a new indoor play space and teen room at Amplatz.

Nick Engbloom, external relations officer for the University Foundation and Amplatz Children’s Hospital, estimated the play space would cost between $200,000 and $500,000. He said the hospital is hoping to open the room within the next year.

The University student group Unlimited Dance Marathon has been planning this year’s event since last spring. Group leaders said that they’re hoping to raise $50,000 this year, while also establishing a foundation for future dance marathons at the University.

“Much of this year has just been branding what we’ve been doing,” said former Gophers kicker Chris Hawthorne, an Unlimited Dance Marathon Executive Board member. “Hopefully in years to come, the fundraising component will really, really take off.”

Dance marathon at the U

The University hosted its first dance marathon in 2011, and that year, the proceeds went to the organization One Heartland, which runs camps for families with socially isolating conditions — everything from HIV/AIDS and Type 2 diabetes to homelessness.

The dance marathon raised $13,800 in 2012 and 2013 combined without the involvement of the athletics department. The proceeds raised were split between One Heartland and Amplatz.

Hawthorne and Gophers swimmer Christie Clarke approached the Dance Marathon student group at the University last spring about planning the 2014 event together. Hawthorne and Clarke had visited Penn State’s highly successful dance marathon, known as Thon, and they said that they envisioned an event on a similar scale at
Minnesota.

“My comment to our group was, ‘If Penn State can raise $101 million in the middle of Pennsylvania, not located in the middle of a thriving metropolis like we are here, I shudder to see what we can do in a couple years here,’” Hawthorne said.

The executive board met once a week starting last spring and has met twice a week this semester. The board planned all aspects of the event, from securing Mariucci Arena as a venue to establishing contacts in the hospital and collecting donations at sporting
events.

Its original goal was to triple the $8,000 it raised in 2013, and the group has far surpassed it.

Callie Krummel, the group’s adviser, said the team has been able to accomplish more than it originally thought possible, thanks in part to the involvement of the student-athletes.

“The coordination has been amazing,” she said. “Everybody’s worked pretty well together, and we’ve been able to accomplish things that never would have been able to happen without either of us.”

Food, dancing and more

The dance marathon will include dancing, food, games, prizes and presentations from University sports teams. Every hour, dancers will perform a “morale dance” and will hear a patient story.

Krummel said she’s expecting about 1,000 people to attend the event, including about 500 dancers. She said 345 dancers had signed up as of Wednesday morning.

The board is also hoping that swim teams in town for the Big Ten women’s swimming and diving championships will stop over after their competition.

Clarke is balancing her dance marathon duties with the Big Ten Swimming and Diving Championships at the University Aquatic Center. She said that on Saturday, she’ll head straight from the pool to Mariucci for the event. Even with her hectic weekend, she said she expects to still feel great come Sunday.

“I think that at 6 a.m., we’re just going to know that everything was worth what we did,” she said.

Lange will also be there come Sunday morning. He convinced his mom to let him stay up for the whole event and said he expects to feel tired, but also excited, because he’s “doing it for a good cause.”

“It’s great that they are doing this for the kids,” he said.