For 13 years, UNC Chapel Hill students have stood for 24 hours to support the patients and families at N.C. Children’s Hospital, but this year’s event promises to be the largest UNC Dance Marathon yet, with more registered dancers than ever before.
Two-thousand students signed up to take a stand for kids who can’t in the 14th annual UNC Dance Marathon on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 17 and 18, inside UNC’s Fetzer Gym. The previous record was 1,800 registered dancers for the 2009 marathon.
“I’m so excited that so many UNC students decided to participate in this amazing experience by registering to dance,” said Overall Coordinator Gracie Beard.
The marathon will kick off at 7:30 p.m. at UNC’s Fetzer gym after a few words from former N.C. Children’s Hospital patient and UND-DM kid co-captain, Asheton Ayotte and her parents, Matt and Tiana, of Chapel Hill.
Asheton was born at UNC in January 2002, 15 weeks premature and weighing a mere 1 pound, 5 ounces. Like many micro-preemies, she had myriad medical issues, including a hole in her heart and chronic lung disease. She had the distinction of being one of the first occupants of the then brand-new Newborn Critical Care Center at N.C. Children’s Hospital, where she received excellent care over a total of 107 days. (See Asheton’s complete story at http://bit.ly/meet-asheton.)
Now 10, Asheton shows no outward signs of being born so early. Despite some asthma-related issues and eyeglasses, her recovery is miraculous—a fact her parents attribute to the extraordinary medical attention the family received at N.C. Children’s Hospital. The experience keeps the family involved in giving back to the hospital through, among other things, participation in the UNC Dance Marathon.
“By the time ‘Family Hour,’ came it all went away—the pain, the exhaustion and the frustration,” said Lauren Stange, a senior dancing for her fourth time this year, of patient-family participation at the marathon. “Nothing else mattered but those kids and families whose lives we touched.”
The marathon will feature several Children’s Hospital patients, families and caregivers over the 24-hour course of the event—but that’s not all. Campus and community performance groups will entertain the 2,000 student revelers, and additional activities and on-stage games centered on this year’s “Mission Possible” theme will keep the energy high until the marathon wraps with Family Hour on Saturday evening.
“My committee and I work to ensure that dancers are constantly energized and engaged in the marathon,” said Entertainment Chair Diane Morris. “We work hard to make sure there aren’t too many acts of the same type and that we secure top-quality performers.”
Dancers will be divided into 24 teams, each with a spy-related name to keep with the event’s theme. Each team is headed by a member of the Morale committee and has also been assigned a kid co-captain. Like Asheton Ayotte, these kids have been personally impacted by the hospital or UNC-DM and remind dancers why they are participating in the marathon.
In addition to dancers, hundreds of moralers and volunteers will also participate in the marathon. Moralers work six-hour shifts and keep dancers energized, while volunteers work three-hour shifts and help with the operations and logistics of the event.
However, dancers, moralers and volunteers are not the only ones who work to make the marathon successful. More than 300 students also serve on 13 committees responsible for various aspects of the Marathon and its yearlong fundraising efforts. Committees helped to organize and publicize events including benefit nights at local restaurants, a benefit reception and Trick-or-Treat For Kids Who Can’t. They also canned for donations at UNC football and basketball games throughout the year.
UNC-DM is not just a two-day event but is a year-round effort that started in 1998 and has grown tremendously. During the past 13 years, UNC-DM has raised $2.8 million dollars, and last year it raised $436,709.61.
The public is invited to experience this unique event.