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Dance Marathon Lets Students Know Where Their Money Goes

How many times a semester have you been asked to give to a charity on campus? Organizations duke it out daily in the Pit for a prime table location so students will wander over to their table between classes.

There, students are enticed with witty T-shirts, spaghetti dinner tickets, raffles and other clever ideas in exchange for a donation.

How many times, however, are you certain you know where your money is going?

Most of the time organizations are not sure themselves where the money raised is actually going. Members of organizations will raise funds for their given philanthropy or to aid another charity but have no idea what the donation will actually be used for.

The UNC Dance Marathon, benefiting the North Carolina Children's Hospital, decided to take ownership of the money it raised by creating the For the Kids Fund. The fund consists of the annual fund-raising total and is used to aid families of children receiving care in the UNC healthcare system.

The money allocated to the families provides extra resources outside the realm of health care insurance and Medicaid.

The interesting part of the fund is that the students who participate in the Dance Marathon have the opportunity to meet and form relationships with the families who will be directly benefiting from the money raised.

The Department of Social Work is responsible for distributing the fund to the families in the hospital. But the organizers of the Dance Marathon are sent a monthly spreadsheet detailing how the fund is being used.

"The reason why we created the fund is to help pay for costs that should not be a concern of parents when their children are sick in the hospital," said Cristy Irvin, UNC Dance Marathon Overall Coordinator.

In the past, the fund was used to purchase phone cards for children staying in the hospital who otherwise would not have had enough money to call home. Other uses include buying books and CDs for kids undergoing treatment, meals for family members, and baby clothes and formula for new mothers who cannot afford them. The fund recently covered the costs of the electricity bill of one family who could not afford it so the child, when released from care, would have electricity to come home to.

The involvement in the Dance Marathon has grown immensely since the first Dance Marathon in 1999 because the fund is a true motivation for the students who organize and volunteer for the project. In Marathon 1999, there were 80 dancers, 100 volunteers and not quite enough entertainment to fill the 24-hour event.

With the For the Kids Fund in full swing, the Dance Marathon now has more than 400 dancers, 250 volunteers and a nonstop line up of entertainment.

It's easy to get excited about an event when you know where your time, energy and money are all going.

While the organizers of the Dance Marathon certainly deserve a pat on the back, it is the organization's fund raising that truly makes a difference at the children's hospital. Without the help of the 100 organizations raising funds, the fund would not be able to improve the lives of children and families who need help.

Over the past two years, the Dance Marathon has raised more than $110,000.

It is the largest fund-raiser organized solely for the N.C. Children's Hospital. The children's hospital certainly welcomes the donations. It is the only state-supported pediatric facility in North Carolina, yet state-allocated funds cover less than 10 percent of its budget.

Also, no child is turned away from treatment at the N.C. Children's Hospital, regardless of insurance or ability to pay.

Eric Munson, president and CEO of UNC Hospitals is thrilled with the efforts of the UNC students who organize the Dance Marathon.

"Because UNC Hospitals is a public, not-for-profit hospital, we depend on the generosity of caring individuals and corporate citizens to help lend financial support through fund-raising events such as the Dance Marathon," he said.

Not bad for a bunch of college kids.


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Suzanne Shoaf is a senior journalism and mass communication major and UNC Dance Marathon Publicity Chairwoman. Reach her at