Carolina For The Kids is preparing for its 20th annual Dance Marathon this Friday, emphasizing the evolution of CFTK with the theme "Through the Years."
The inaugural Dance Marathon, held in 1999, had 75 dancers. In recent years, CFTK has drawn over 1,000 student participants for Dance Marathon and has become the largest student-run nonprofit in North Carolina.
This year's Dance Marathon organizers have focused on keeping dancers engaged with new activities like glow-in-the-dark capture the flag and throwback reality television games like Family Feud. The new activities are designed to boost engagement and morale of the dancers throughout the duration of the marathon.
“We’re really packing a punch this year in terms of the activities that we’re bringing along, and we’re not just making a show, but to make it interactive for everyone,” said technology chairperson Gabriel Timotei. “To have everyone not just be a bystander, but to have everyone participate in the marathon and then really leave their mark, especially in our 20th anniversary.”
The annual 24-hour no-sleeping, no-sitting Dance Marathon is the culmination of a yearlong effort by Carolina For The Kids to raise money to support families of patients at UNC Children’s Hospital. The organization’s flagship grant, the For The Kids Fund, provides financial assistance for necessities not covered by insurance, like money for travel and critical utility bills.
Though CFTK hosts several other fundraising events through the year, including a Kilometers for the Kids 5k and One Day Campaign, the Dance Marathon is by far the largest. The 2017 UNC Dance Marathon raised over $420,000, bringing the organization’s lifetime total to over $5 million.
Student dancers sign up to participate in Dance Marathon during their fall semester and must raise at least $200, though many students continue their efforts, some raising thousands of dollars. At the Marathon, dancers spend 24 consecutive hours watching shows by campus performance groups, participating in an 8 a.m. rave, and connecting with the children and families CFTK supports during “family hour.”
Family hour is the first chance CFTK Dance Marathon participants have to interact with the families that their organization supports.
“It’s sometimes hard, when you’re so separate from the cause, to realize what you’re doing,” Caroline Hausler, a first-time CFTK dancer, said. “But at the Marathon, at the end when you have family hour, that’ll help show what we’re working towards.”
The CFTK Dance Marathon doesn’t only benefit the families that it financially supports. The solidarity of the whirlwind 24 hours can be an important bonding moment for participants.
“I think it’s really a once in lifetime opportunity, something you can only really do when you’re on a college campus," said Dara Burg, the current publicity chairperson for CFTK. "I think it’s impactful to the students in that way, to have this bonding experience with thousands of other students because they get to all come together to do something that’s truly unique to support the families.”
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