Update March 25, 2023
A year of work by the the 2023 University of South Carolina Dance Marathon team culminated in a huge success: $788, 645 raised to fund the Child Life program at Columbia's Prisma Health Children's Hospital, part of the Children's Miracle Network.
The reveal of the fundraising total was the climax of the 14-hour Dance Marathon Main Event, a day of dancing, fundraising and celebrating the kids and families who are the reason the student organization exists.
"Having you all here, having you love and embrace Lila the way you do, means so much to us as a family," said Padgett Mozingo, whose daughter Lila is one of the Miracle Kids who have been helped by the hospital and by Dance Marathon. "She loves all of you so much."
Life-threatening illnesses hit hard, especially for children. And it’s not just the person battling the disease who suffers — families and friends carry the burden, too.
Through its ongoing support of Prisma Health Children’s Hospital, Dance Marathon can help.
Emily Saidel, a senior business major who has been part of Dance Marathon since her freshman year, has been hit with the weight of illness more than once. Her father has battled cancer, and one of her closest friends passed away while they were still in high school. Those experiences helped motivate her to give her time to help kids battling illnesses of their own.
“Every moment matters,” Saidel says. “I think being part of this makes us more aware of that and more selfless. I think that is important not only for Dance Marathon, but also for everything else you do.”
The University of South Carolina Dance Marathon is the university’s largest student-run philanthropic organization, raising more than $7.2 million since its inception, with all the money staying close to home. The Child Life Program at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital is funded by USCDM, and the USC Dance Marathon Playground offers a safe outdoor space for patients and siblings to play during their stay at the hospital.
It all started with a small group meeting in Russell House in 1998. This week, University of South Carolina Dance Marathon will celebrate 25 years of helping kids and families at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital. More than 250 students, all volunteers, have worked throughout the 2022-23 school year to make year 25 a success. At the Main Event at the university’s Wellness and Fitness Center on March 25, more than 1,000 other students will join them for a 14-hour celebration and final drive ending with the reveal of the year’s fundraising total.
“Everyone in USCDM is so driven, so compassionate,” Saidel says. “Whenever you go to a meeting, you can feel the passion in the room and you know these people truly care about what they're doing.”
Biology major Baylee Marin is part of the USCDM Morale Team. Their role is to build excitement throughout the year, and at the Main Event they lead the unique line dance in which everyone participates.
“It really pushes me out of my comfort zone. I have a really big fear of public speaking. I never thought that I would be dancing up on stage in front of more than a thousand people,” Marin says. “It's really rewarding to see that pushing yourself and doing the hard things is how you have the biggest impact.”
The faces change as the years go by, but the mission never does. To keep the momentum going, USCDM launched the Ignite program, recruiting younger students and introducing them to the many parts of the student organization. Sophomore pre-med student Maryam Chahoud joined Ignite in fall 2022 and has embraced her role as part of the team that will launch the next 25 years.
“It just means so much to see kids not be afraid of the hospital and feel like they're somewhere where they're safe, and that’s what the Child Life Program does,” Chahoud says. “Meeting so many of the kids and getting to tour the hospital was an incredible opportunity. It makes you feel accomplished to know that you're even remotely some part of something that's changing young kids' lives. Who wouldn't want to be part of something so big and so purehearted?”
Public health major Katie Torbert has been part of Dance Marathon since the Ignite program brought her on board as a freshman. This year, as a senior, she is the USCDM president.
“The one word that comes to mind when reflecting on 25 years of USCDM is legacy,” Torbert says. “This organization has built a legacy on the UofSC campus. The legacy has been built by our leaders, our miracle kids, and the light they bring to this world. One of the biggest lessons USCDM has taught me is that a large group of passionate college students can make a positive impact on their community.”
The university’s Wellness and Fitness Center will host the Main Event on March 25. To support USCDM, click here.