More than 1,000 students packed into Fetzer Gym Friday, pledging to stand — and often dance — for an entire day to raise money for the N.C. Children’s Hospital.
The 12th annual Dance Marathon ended after 24 hours having raised $421,851.32 — a record for the event — bringing the event’s total fundraising to more than $2.5 million since its first year.
With the aid of 4,980 donors and 255 volunteers, the Treasure Island-themed marathon featured nonstop dancing and entertainment from campus performance groups, athletes and speakers.
The Daily Tar Heel experienced the marathon through the eyes of sophomore Chase Miller of Cary, a marathon veteran.
7:30 p.m. Friday
Miller, who danced last year, said he felt prepared. He spent most of Friday napping and bought drinks at Wal-Mart to prevent dehydration, a painful mistake he made the year before.
Miller said his motivations for participating this year were different.
“Last year, it was more of a personal test,” he said.
“I learned that the feeling I got after the marathon was not because I was doing it to prove something for myself, but to help the children and the cause.”
Miller danced in the first rave of the night and learned this year’s line dance, which was performed 13 more times throughout the event.
After kickoff, Miller said he felt relieved.
“I have just been waiting and waiting on this to happen all year,” he said.
11 p.m. Friday
By nighttime, aches and pains began to set in.
“We just did Zumba. It got my blood pumping, but now my feet are starting to hurt,” he said.
Going into the night, he was looking forward to a morning delivery of Red Bull from his mom.
He said he wanted to hold out on the energy drinks until then to avoid crashing too early.
3:30 a.m. Saturday
After dancing to the band Carolina Blues, Miller noticed new aches — this time in his lower back.
But despite the physical pain, Miller said he still felt strong.
“Mentally, I am wired,” he said.
For the first time, he noticed time passing slowly. But a delivery of Oreos and pizza from friends put him back into gear, he said.
Still fighting the urge to caffeinate too soon, Miller said he was craving a Red Bull.
9:30 a.m. Saturday
Not until he received some downtime Saturday morning did Miller recognize the latest pain.
“Once you hear one person complain about their knees hurting, your knees start to hurt,” he said.
With the pain shooting straight up into his neck, Miller said he would give anything for a pillow. Instead, he settled for neck massages from friends.
But a sunrise walk around Kenan Stadium put Miller into a refreshing high. Joining a mass exodus from Fetzer Gym at 6:30 a.m., Miller circled the stadium to music from the UNC drum line and cheers from the dance team.
“The gym is burning up right now, and it was nice to get fresh air,” he said.
For yet another morning mood-lifter, Miller finally indulged in the long-awaited Red Bull delivery from his mom at 9 a.m.
“Now I’m going for the caffeine high until after lunch,” he said.
3:30 p.m. Saturday
Miller had no additions to his list of aching body parts, but instead a subtraction.
“My knees no longer hurt,” he said. “They are just numb now.”
After watching the basketball game against Boston College on a projection screen, the dancers took another trip outside, this time to break the Guinness world record for longest massage train. The previous record was 430 people.
“It’s the home stretch,” he said with a few hours left. “It will be easy from here on out.”
7:30 p.m. Saturday
Five families that have benefited from money raised by Dance Marathon took the stage, providing dancers a time of reflection.
“I realized how much the marathon meant to more than just me and my friends,” Miller said.
Jessica Hill, whose 2-year old daughter has a heart condition, told the dancers that they’ll never realize all the lives they have touched.
Later, Miller joined his fellow dancers in simultaneously collapsing to the ground to sit for the first time in 24 hours.
Ten seconds later, dancers got back up and started dancing again, fueled by the spirit of celebration.
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