The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday December 9th

Growth, Kids Mark 4th Marathon

This weekend, 577 dancers, 200 moralers, 300 volunteers and 120 committee members filled the gym for the annual UNC Dance Marathon. Last year, the marathon boasted 400 dancers.

The total amount raised, announced at the end of the 24 hours, was $122,209 -- about a $20,000 improvement from last year. In the four years of the Dance Marathon's existence, the amount of money raised and the number of participants have increased every year.

The fund-raiser earns money to support the "For the Kids" fund, which goes to families with children receiving care at the N.C. Children's Hospital.

The Dance Marathon's overall coordinator Scott Werry, a junior political science major, said he was elated about the event's success. "Especially in such a difficult financial year, it's a sense of accomplishment," he said. "It's indicative of the spirit of Chapel Hill."

The fund raising occurs throughout the year but revolves around the marathon event, which began at 7 p.m. Friday and ended at 7 p.m. Saturday.

During those 24 hours, the dancers had to stay on their feet, but their activities extended beyond just dancing. Organizers kept them busy and provided activities to boost their spirits.

Dancers listened to bands and a cappella groups, engaged in group games and played sports activities. They also took rejuvenating breaks from the action to chat in groups, share massages, receive mail from home and eat food donated by corporate sponsors.

Moralers and volunteers participated by showing up for shifts throughout the event. Volunteers helped the committee members, while moralers, wearing T-shirts decorated with inspiring or funny messages, pumped energy into weary dancers.

One highlight for many dancers was an event new to the marathon -- the 6:30 a.m. walk, where organizers took the dancers out to Kenan Stadium for a refreshing breath of cold morning air. Dancers circled the track, listened to music over the loudspeakers and watched the sun rise.

Another memorable moment for the dancers was the Kid's Hour on Saturday, when they were able to interact with children benefiting from the fund raising.

Monica Lerew, a 10-year-old with cystic fibrosis, is a patient at the N.C. Children's Hospital. At the marathon, she said she played with a hula hoop and got on the moon bounce with some of the college students.

Her mother, Monteen Lerew, said she saw a lot of heart in the dancers. "What impresses me most is the way those involved seem to embrace your whole family, especially the kids," she said. "It makes the kids feel special."

Members of the head committee also showed appreciation for the dancers. "I feel pretty humbled because everybody's thanking me when they should be thanking the dancers," Werry said.

Even the dancers themselves maintained high spirits and kept their focus on the beneficial cause. In a scratchy voice at 5:30 a.m., senior Missy Stancil said the hardest part was thinking about 7 p.m. and how far away it was. "The temptation to leave is huge," she said. "But I'm not going to. I'm really glad I did this."

During the Family Hour from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., families stood on stage and expressed their appreciation to the exhausted crowd, providing the emotional climax of the event.

For the last hour, some swayed slightly and others jumped around enthusiastically to the last songs. The head committee led the dancers in a loud 15-second countdown to the point when they could sit. Collectively, the dancers plopped gratefully on the floor of the gym.

At 7:20 p.m., after she was no longer required to stand, Stancil said she was tired but thankful to have participated. "I am so blessed, so incredibly blessed by it."

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