Carolina for the Kids exceeded the $550,000 mark for the second year in a row and beat the 2014 fundraising record by almost $20,000 at its 17th annual dance marathon.
“It shows what people can accomplish when they all rally behind one cause,” said Evan Sherwood, executive director of Carolina for the Kids.
This year, more than 2,000 students came together to dance from 8 p.m. Friday until 8 p.m. Saturday in Fetzer Gym. Dancers were divided into 32 teams, and there were 34 kid co-captains who either are or were patients in the hospital.
Junior Conner Frank participated in the marathon for his first time.
A resident adviser, Frank said many of his residents encouraged him to sign up. He also wanted to participate because he knew people in similar situations to many of the families Carolina for the Kids helps.
“I told myself I would never do something like this because I love sleep, and I’m kind of lazy,” he said. “But it’s been good.”
Throughout the academic year, volunteers can connect with children in the hospital and their families by spending time in the hospital’s pediatric playroom and helping with other social events.
Around hour 23, parents who have benefitted from Carolina for the Kids shared their stories. Kid co-captains darted through pockets of dancers and chased tennis balls while dancers stood with their eyes glued to the stage for the emotional family hour.
Heather Murphy, a parent, said it was the small things the organization did for parents that helped so much.
After an accident left her son Andrew with third-degree burns, she said activities like parent dinners helped parents leave without guilt.
“It’s hard enough to be a parent of an active, 3-year-old boy, but when you put that active, 3-year-old boy in a hospital bed for two months, it gets even harder,” she said. “How do you keep him entertained and happy? It’s with the help of this organization.”
Sherwood said every year most of the money raised comes from the dancers’ fundraising efforts. Each dancer is required to raise $150.
He said one of the challenges to fundraising is having a similar donor pool to draw from as the marathons at Duke University and N.C. State University.
He said other organizations are set up differently. The marathon at Pennsylvania State University partners with the Greek system, and other schools are tied in with the Children’s Miracle Network.
He was encouraged that UNC’s marathon has grown.
“I think we’re on the road to do good things.”