Dance marathon nabs $83,000

This weekend’s Unlimited Dance Marathon raised nearly $29,000 for new patient play areas at Amplatz Children’s Hospital.

Nate Gotlieb

VIDEO: “Dance until Dawn”

Hundreds of University of Minnesota students and Amplatz Children’s Hospital patients danced all night Saturday at the Unlimited Dance Marathon.

But even with the large crowd, few people had the energy of 7-year-old Anders Waterworth.

Waterworth has cystic fibrosis — a chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. But that didn’t stop him Saturday as he bounced around the
Mariucci Arena floor during the first few hours of the evening.

At one point, he even led a dance train of students weaving through the rink. Later, as he danced for his parents, a group of students began dancing behind him, following his every move.

Waterworth later said he was having fun at the event because “I get to dance, and I get to have fun with my family.”

Such was the atmosphere at the fourth annual Unlimited Dance Marathon, the largest the University has hosted since the event began. The event raised about $83,000, including nearly $29,000 that will go directly to Amplatz.

The dancing took place on the Mariucci Arena floor, where a disc jockey in the center of the rink played music throughout the night. There was also an inflatable house, food for dancers and raffle prizes.

There were 728 attendees as of midnight Saturday, Unlimited Dance Marathon advisor Callie Krummel said.

“I feel like the energy’s really high, especially with the people who are left,” she said at the time.

Krummel guided the Unlimited Dance Marathon executive board as it planned the event. The board was made up of students and student-athletes, including former Gophers kicker Chris Hawthorne.

Hawthorne has visited Amplatz at various points over the past year and connected with 12-year-old Richie Lange during his visits. Lange was one of about 10 patients who attended the event.

After his diagnosis of Ewing’s Sarcoma — a rare form of bone cancer — last year. Lange had more than eight months of treatment at Amplatz. He said he would often walk the hallways to stay active but wished the hospital had a more kid-friendly place to exercise.

The hospital is using the money from the dance marathon for just that — an indoor play space for its pre-teen and teenage patients. It needs an estimated $200,000 to $500,000 to build the space, and it plans to have the project done within a year.

Diego Luke, a 15-year-old patient, said the hospital has a playroom, but it’s more suited for younger kids. Luke attended the dance marathon with two friends and his parents. He said he was excited about the food, hanging out with his friends and dancing.

“I really like Amplatz, and I want to get the word out that it’s a really good place,” he said.

Luke spoke briefly to the crowd about his kidney disease and lymphoma — a form of cancer.

University sports teams and clubs performed songs and dances throughout the night. Patients’ families also told their cancer stories and danced onstage.

One 12-year-old patient, in particular, blew the crowd away.

Sabrina Ness, a cystic fibrosis patient, performed two songs that night, including one she wrote herself. Ness’ voice had the maturity of someone twice her age, and she carried herself onstage like the pop star she said she wants to become one day.

She said she was excited about her performance and was enjoying the event.

That was the consensus of most of the students in attendance as well.

University engineering freshmen Trevor Litke and Carl Duebner arrived at Mariucci Arena at 5:15 p.m. and planned on staying for the entire event. Litke said he took a lot of naps Saturday, but Duebner said he didn’t do much to prepare.

“It’s a blast,” he said early in the evening. “The atmosphere — it’s so positive.”

Duebner and Litke were part of a small but enthusiastic crowd as the night wore on. The crowd was largest during the first few hours, and those who stayed continued dancing.

Anders Waterworth left after a couple of hours, but his family seemed grateful for the support.

“I think it’s fantastic. I’m really impressed with all the students that came out tonight,” said Leanne Waterworth, Anders’ mother. “It means a lot.”