Dance Marathon raises $931,016
By Allen Wallace, firstname.lastname@example.org, 8037775667
Update April 12, 2022
The 2022 University of South Carolina Dance Marathon team raised $931,016 to fund the Child Life program at Columbia's Prisma Health Children's Hospital, part of the Children's Miracle Network.
"We love each and every one of you. There is no greater cause than the Children's Miracle Network. There is no greater Gamecock student participation program than Dance Marathon," South Carolina Interim President Harris Pastides told the students.
Catherine Malatesta passed away while still a high school student, but her impact on the world continues. Her friend, Meg Laurendeau, is now president of Dance Marathon at the University of South Carolina, a role she worked hard to earn, all because of Catherine.
“When I learned about Dance Marathon and the kids that it impacted, it was an opportunity for me to live out her legacy and continue something. I think when things get hard and there are long hours and long days and long meetings and long everything sometimes, I just reflect on my why and that I get to have this opportunity to impact the lives of kids who are like her," Laurendeau says.
On Saturday (April 9), Laurendeau will lead nearly 2,000 University of South Carolina students as they gather to spend 14 hours dancing together, all to let children battling illness and injury know that they are not fighting alone.
For the university’s largest student-run philanthropic organization, Dance Marathon, Saturday’s Main Event is the culmination of more than a year of hard work, preparation and fundraising to support the Child Life Program at Columbia’s Prisma Health Children’s Hospital.
This year and last have brought the added challenges of navigating the pandemic. The students found a way in 2021, when they moved Main Event outdoors with added safety precautions, and raised $582,303. Then and now, with hopes of even more success in 2022, the all-volunteer team has come together to accomplish more than any individual could dream of. The kids are not fighting alone. Neither is anyone in Dance Marathon.
Laurendeau, a senior majoring in biological sciences, leads a nine-person executive board, 95 other staff members and nearly 200 members of the organization’s Morale Team (dedicated to leading the dance and keeping the energy level high during Main Event) and Ignite (the training ground for freshmen to become the next group of Dance Marathon leaders).
That group is the core of Dance Marathon at UofSC. At Main Event, they will be joined by approximately 1,800 other Gamecock students, some participating as individuals and others representing 53 campus organizations that have helped raise money and support the cause.
“Our executive board does have a lot of younger leaders this year, but I think with that, we've really brought a new passion and vision to DM,” Laurendeau says. “The people in this program, these college students, aren't just doing a student org to do a student org. They treat Dance Marathon like it's their full-time job, but at the same time treat it like it's their passion project. So I think having that combination of people who are so committed to something, but also treat it like work and things they get done day in and day out is really what creates what DM is and how we are able to be so successful.”
This year’s Main Event moves to a new venue, the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. For Justin Leggin, vice president of productions, that means new opportunities and new challenges as he oversees the logistics. He says communication has been a big key to the team’s success.
“You have to get everybody together and on the same page. As leaders, we can’t go up until Friday night before Main Event making decisions, because there are hundreds of other people involved who need to know what’s going on as well,” Leggin says. The senior biomedical engineering major was a part of Dance Marathon at his high school, as well as the previous three years at UofSC, and has become a leader, learning to trust his team.
“My role now is still very hands on, but it’s more of offering experienced guidance,” he says. “I serve as more of the point of contact between DM and the Russell House or our advisor. To the rest of the DM team I’m here to say, “OK, these are your resources. I'll take care of the back-end logistical stuff for you while you focus on planning.”
The scope of an event like this and a yearlong campaign requires many different leaders handling many different areas, bringing all the parts together to form a whole. Jane Jacobs, a public health major, is this year’s merchandise director.
“I feel like looking at merchandise from the outside, you don't realize like how much there is,” she says. “It’s not only designing and ordering the T-shirts for Main Event. I've also had to think about merchandise as one way that we can raise funds. So I need to think about keeping costs low so that I can sell. It's all fundraising.”
Jacobs has also had to learn to take charge in her area, not an easy thing when working alongside fellow students who are also volunteers.
“I'm a junior. It's hard to be like, ‘Hey, you have to be here and do this,’” she says. “I've definitely learned how to be firm with my peers, without being mean and a bossy leader. I think my staff members will be friends for long after this.”
Dance Marathon is, as Laurendeau says, both a passion project and a business. Why do these college students give so much of their time, energy and talents? Why devote all this to something for which you never earn money? There are as many answers as there are members of the team, and all are inspiring.
Jacobs, like Leggin, joined her high school’s Dance Marathon program and never looked back.
“It's almost like second nature. Like why would I not put my time into this? I'm doing something to benefit other people. I hope that one day, if I'm ever in that situation, there are also people doing the same for me and my children.”
Leggin recalls hearing Kendel Davy, now an alumna, speak at Main Event his freshman year, sharing her experiences working closely with the Hewitt family, whose daughter Ellington is a former Children’s Hospital patient (a Miracle Kid, as they are known).
“I feel like what I'm doing in this organization really does have an actual impact,” he says. “All of our skills are going to make that goal happen and figure out how we're going to make other people's lives a little bit better.”
Saturday, it all comes together. More than a year of work from thousands of hands. For Catherine Malatesta, for Ellington Hewitt, for every single child and family member in need of support in a difficult time. For the Child Life staff at Prisma Health who give that support day after day, funded by this team. For love, for hope, and always for the kids.
Visit uscdm.org to learn more about Dance Marathon and/or to donate.
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