The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday January 24th

Dance Marathon Money Goes to Help Families

When sophomore Chris Shields steps out onto a busy street corner, he yells and dances around, shaking an empty water bottle at passing cars.

And he does it all in the name of the Dance Marathon. Shields does what is known in the Dance Marathon world as "canning" -- he stands on a street soliciting donations from passers-by.

"Even if they don't give any money, it spreads the word and hopefully helps the kids out in the long run," he said.

Funds for the Dance Marathon are also generated through private donations, UNC ONE Card payments, corporate contributions, a silent auction and profits from fund-raisers. The money raised goes to the "For the Kids" fund, which benefits patients at the N.C. Children's Hospital.

But the money goes through several steps en route to the children, starting with the Dance Marathon Finance Committee.

Committee Chairwoman Katie Jackson said that beginning in January, the 11-member committee works for about an hour a day, counting, sorting and depositing all funds collected.

Once the fund raising is completed -- this year's total reached $122,209 -- the Finance Committee divides and disperses the money to the Children's Hospital social workers quarterly.

Connie Culbreth, a pediatric social worker at the hospital, said guidelines determine who needs assistance. "Our rule is that it needs to be something that there will be an end to," she said.

In the past, the money has helped subsidize families' phone card purchases, travel expenses, hospital and medical equipment bills, mortgage payments and funeral expenses.

One such family is the Gundersons, whose 5-year-old, Kristine, has diamond blackfan anemia, a rare genetic disorder. The family comes to the hospital every four weeks for her blood transfusions. "For the first four years of her life, our older kids would miss things because she was in the hospital," said Lisa Gunderson, Kristine's mother.

That's where the Dance Marathon has come into play, both financially and emotionally.

Gunderson said she noted a positive change in her family's attitude after they began receiving money coupons and attending events sponsored by the Dance Marathon. She said they now understand they have a support system. "It has helped us emotionally, and it's positive not only for (Kristine) but for our older children as well," she said.

Scott Werry, the head organizer of the Dance Marathon, said though fund raising is important, this interaction with the children is the most rewarding part of the Dance Marathon.

"At the end of the day, the kids and the families are all that matter."


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