It takes a good deal of energy, passion, and dedication to commit to a twelve-hour, nonstop dancing marathon. Thankfully for the patients at Boston Children’s Hospital, a group of students from Boston College have, for the second year in a row, reaffirmed their commitment to do just that.
The BC Class Councils have united their efforts to put on this year’s on-campus Dance Marathon, a national event in conjunction with Miracle Network that raises money for local children’s hospitals. Nationwide, there are over a million active participants, with more than $26 million being raised for patients across the US in 2015 alone. Their slogan, Do It #ForTheKids (often shorted to #FTK), stands at the core of their mission.
“I’ve been a patient at Boston Children’s [Hospital] for almost 16 years now,” says DM planning committee member and participant Maggie Mansfield, MCAS ‘19. “I was really sick when I was a kid. We moved from Virginia to Boston for my care, so anything that helps Children’s—I’m usually all for it.”
While last year’s Dance Marathon was advertised as its premier launch at BC, Mansfield remembers otherwise.
“BC had it a while ago. I must have been, like, 12, and the hospital actually asked me to go speak at it,” she recalls. “It was really small, in the Vandy Cabaret room, with a bunch of different families from the hospital and a decent showing of the student body. I ended my speech with: ‘Oh, I’ll be here in a couple of years.’ I like to think they brought it back for me—that it was a good omen or something.”
The event is set to take place from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18. Participants, referred to as “dancers,” pay to register, but they also get to see performances from some of the biggest dance and a cappella groups on campus. The day is broken up into different themed “blocks,” with games and activities to help pass the time. The catch? Whether dancing or not, nobody is allowed to sit down for the entirety of the day.
“Because it is for the kids, you don’t want them sitting down or being discouraged,” says DM’s Head of Event Operation, Carlee Palmer, MCAS ‘17. “You want to make sure that everyone is feeling motivated and feeling that they can do it, just generally happy and positive.”
Palmer’s team is responsible for organizing everything that happens on the day of the event—and that includes bringing in families with patients at Boston Children’s. Although the goal of the event is to raise money for these families, the primary takeaway is not the monetary aspect; it is the aspect of hope and possibility that lingers long after Dance Marathon is over.
“[Dance Marathon] represents a day or night spent at the hospital,” says Palmer. “We put on hospital bracelets and cut them off at the end of the day. What really moves me is to see these kids so happy and so positive after already having gone through so much at such a young age. Life is too short to have negative energy, and I think dancing is one of the best things you can do for that.”
Even with such a good cause at its core, Dance Marathon is still new to the on-campus event scene, which means that promotion can often be the biggest challenge.
“The people who are involved already are the people who want to be involved, so right now we’re just trying to establish a relationship with some of the other groups on campus,” says Mansfield. “But bringing [DM] to a new community is always inspiring because it reaffirms that that hospital is a special place, and I think people will get behind it pretty quickly.”
The DM team has been working on building a name and presence for themselves on campus. They put out a promotional video by John Walsh and kicked off a dance dare video challenge on Facebook. They also held Miracle Week, which was filled with different daily events to raise awareness for Dance Marathon and its cause, as well as a fundraiser night at Tasca on Tuesday.
“As a patient from Children’s—and a lifelong patient at that—I think it’s really important and interesting for other students to realize that it’s not just the hospital down the street,” says Mansfield. “There are people here who have been affected and impacted by Children’s. For me, it’s a really special cause because they have saved my life multiple times.”
In the days leading up to Dance Marathon, the team hopes to continue to extend its efforts towards gaining support and interest from the BC community. While staying at the event for its full twelve-hour duration is encouraged, dancers can come and go to fit their schedule. The important thing is just being there, up on your feet, to show your support for the Boston Children’s community.
“It’s twelve hours of your day, but it’s going to mean so much more to these kids in the hospital,” says Palmer. “There’s no losing in coming to this event. It’s such a happy and positive day—there’s no way you won’t have fun.”