From 7:30 p.m. Friday to 7:30 p.m. Saturday , Fetzer Gym was transformed under layers of colored posters and banners displaying sponsors, dance teams and inspirational quotes for the participants of UNC’s 16th Dance Marathon.
The floors were littered with tennis balls and other means for dancers to relieve their feet, as they remained standing for the entire 24 hours.
The annual event is the University’s largest student fundraising effort , and all the money raised is donated to the North Carolina Children’s Hospital .
This year’s event broke the previous record set for money raised in 2012 by more than $68,000.
There were 13 committees involved in organizing, publicizing and dancing.
Dance Marathon Publicity Chairwoman Renee Montpetit said 2,034 people, including some high school and University of Maryland students, signed up to dance at this year’s marathon.
The dancers were divided into 33 teams to go along with each of the 33 patient co-captains from the children’s hospital. Montpetit said marathon activities included basketball matches, balloon animal making and various minute-to-win-it games. And, as has become a tradition, the dancers went into Kenan Stadium to watch the sunrise midway through the marathon.
“I’m still in shock a little bit,” said Chelsea Krivanek , the morale and recruitment chairwoman.
“It’s just kind of crazy to see something you worked on for an entire year come together and pay off. I literally can’t even explain why I’m crying. I’m just so overwhelmingly happy.”
Although raising more than half a million dollars was an accomplishment for the organization, the executive board members for Dance Marathon said money is a secondary victory.
“Honestly, it’s important, but really, we like to measure our success by the number of people we touch in the community,” said Evan Sherwood , the business management chairman. “Monetary amount is just one way to measure success.”
Executive Director Liz Goslin said the effort extends far beyond the 24-hour event, with year-round volunteers going weekly to the Children’s Hospital to connect with patients and families.
She said every kid co-captain at the event was someone who has benefited from Dance Marathon in some way.
Kathy Ellis dir , a Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities coordinator and a UNC alumna, said her son Jake was a kid co-captain for the fourth year in a row.
“He was born eight weeks early at UNC Hospitals,” she said.
“It’s neat to see college kids with such passion behind the fundraising. It makes me very proud to be a Tar Heel.”
Montpetit said her favorite part of Dance Marathon is getting to know committee members and dancers. She said she looks forward to seeing the moment when volunteers connect with the cause and really believe in it.
Goslin said there are volunteers that come in for three and six hour shifts during the event. They help with logistics and act as motivators for dancers.
“One of the reasons I love this organization so much is because it’s truly only successful because of the work the volunteers put into it every day,” she said. “We wouldn’t be who we are and where we are without them.”
Kaitlyn Thomas , a 2013 UNC graduate who participated in Dance Marathon while at UNC, said the money raised is important because it is used to cover the small expenses that add up for parents; things like parking and meals.
“Just trying to bring a smile to the kids’ faces is really all it is,” she said. “ You see the co-captains here and they’re always so excited to dance with us, and it just makes all of us so happy.”
Freshman Claudia Lemon dir was a patient at the Children’s Hospital the summer before her senior year of high school. She said she appreciated the way the doctors and nurses interacted with their patients.
“They do everything they can to help ensure kids have as pain-free of a time as they can there, so I wanted to do what I could to do the same.”