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UNC Dance Marathon to be hosted virtually following campus event suspensions

2019 dance marathon
Carolina For The Kids Foundation hosted the UNC Dance Marathon, a no-sitting, no-sleeping event comprised of over 2,000 students who remain standing for 24 hours at Fetzer Gym, on March 22 and March 23, 2019. The event is a culmination of year-long fundraising efforts which raised $440,955.07. The money raised goes toward providing families with financial and emotional assistance at UNC Children's Hospital. Students who attended the marathon watched the basketball game between UNC and Iona, danced, watched musical performances and more. Students participated in the marathon for a various personal reasons, including having their own family members in the hospital or, "seeing how much of an impact we can have on a family," junior biology major Jessica Martinson said.

Carolina For The Kids is hosting a different kind of dance marathon this year.

Its annual UNC Dance Marathon, which benefits the UNC Children’s Hospital, was one of the many events to be canceled after the University suspended campus events with more than 50 attendees following the threat of coronavirus.  

On Monday, the group announced on its Instagram page that the dance marathon would be held virtually — a first in the organization’s over 20-year history.

The virtual Dance Marathon will start at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 20 and end 24 hours later. During this time, CFTK will be sharing content across its social media platforms that is meant to mimic the marathon experience, which typically included live performances, games and dancing. 

Dancers who were supposed to be participating are being asked to raise $24 in honor of the 24 hours they would have stood at Dance Marathon. 

Junior Matthew Gibson, CFTK’s creative media chairperson, and senior Kalina MacKay, CFTK’s public relations chairperson, are working together to create content for the virtual dance marathon. 

People who participate can expect interactive dance content, digital giveaways and videos that would have been shown at Dance Marathon, MacKay said.

“There is so much that was done this year to prepare for marathon and that work still deserves to be recognized, even if we’re not hosting this major event in Fetzer,” MacKay said.

MacKay hopes that the virtual marathon will allow CFTK reach more audiences and promote awareness for UNC Children’s Hospital.

“The whole point of marathon is representing the struggle that the patients and families go through at the hospital,” MacKay said. “They never give up and that’s what keeps us going.” 

MacKay said she is hopeful that this experience will allow UNC’s Dance Marathon to reach wider audiences in the coming years. 

“In years going forward, it would be really cool to try to incorporate elements of virtual on top of the physical marathon because everything is going virtual these days,” MacKay said. “It is a really cool opportunity to reach a new audience.”

CFTK’s executive director, senior Michelle Cooley, said it was heartbreaking to learn that the dance marathon had to be canceled.

“Canceling Dance Marathon was definitely not something that we ever imagined we would end up doing this year,” Cooley said. 

Despite the disappointment, many executive members said they are committed to making the most of the situation by highlighting their cause virtually. 

“It’s not something you can replicate, but there are definitely aspects that I can take online to bring the marathon to everyone at home,” MacKay said.

Gibson and other executive members said CFTK is truly about the children and families at UNC Children’s Hospital. 

“Yes, we are not able to hold our main event, but at the end of the day, we are able to help these families in ways that they would not get help otherwise, and that’s really important,” Gibson said.

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