The party is usually dying down by 3 a.m. in Foggy Bottom. But inside Lerner Health and Wellness center, GW’s first annual Dance Marathon had just wrapped up. The Dance Marathon’s 11 executive board members, wearing fanny packs and neon accessories, excitedly held up posters announcing the total proceeds the event raised for the Children’s National Hospital: $36,624.18.
About 100 dancers sat down in unison, exhausted and exhilarated. Even director Libby Wuller was unsure of the total proceeds until the last moments of the 12-hour fundraiser for the Children’s National Hospital in the District, one of 170 in the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
The Dance Marathon, held at universities around the country, is the only national children’s charity committed to having 100 percent of the funds raised support local kids, as opposed to events like Relay for Life, which sends its proceeds to a national organization.
Though 45 student organizations were represented at the marathon, including all eleven sororities and ten fraternities, GW’s dance marathon has room to grow.
“We had about 200 people total roll through, and for a first year fundraiser that’s a huge number. It’s only going to get better,” Wuller, a freshman, said.
With this inaugural event, GW will be joining the history of State schools across the country where Dance Marathons are established fundraisers that rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. At Penn State, the Dance Marathon has been around for 42 years, with this year’s event raising a record-shattering $13 million dollars.
Penn State has about 40,000 students, which means larger participation overall, not to mention bigger Greek life and alumni networks with strong fundraising experience. GW probably will never boast multi-million dollar bottom lines, but the program is off to a strong start.
GW Dance Marathon’s growth and financial potential is reinforced by a young executive board, comprised largely of freshman.
“We knew we wanted to develop this from the ground up and build a fan base, as well as a group of committed people who are going to be here for the next three years,” Wuller said.
The Dance Marathon had one rule: no sitting. Freshman Brooke Cranberg led the crowd in a group dance every hour, but dancing was not the only activity that kept attendees engaged. Participants raced each another and teams paired up for a game of makeshift battleship. There were tables stocked with Pixie Stix and gumballs for quick sugar rushes throughout the night.
Around 9 p.m., a tired but still enthusiastic Wuller admitted, “We’ve hit the typical speed bumps expected at a first year event.”
Throughout the night, organizers focused on keeping morale high by reinforcing the event’s goals and finding creative ways to keep dancers engaged. When there was a lag in energy around 10 p.m., Wuller recalled a game of group heads-or-tails she played years ago, and her team brought the game to the crowd.
For the Dance Marathon executive board, the hard work of organizing the event and the strain of dancing for 12 hours straight was well worth the effort.
“We want to throw a party with a purpose,” said Wuller. “There’s nothing to rally behind that ties into every facet of life at this campus. Dance Marathon gets people behind a cause.”
Co-director of fundraising for the event, freshman Emily Ratzliff, was 13 when she met the little girl who inspired her to get involved with Dance Marathon. Ratzliff was paired with an eight-year-old cancer patient named Brianna through a program at her church, and had grown close to Brianna and her family before the brain cancer came back and took her life.
“I didn’t even know Brianna for that long and she’s still the most important thing in my life,” Ratzcliff said.
The closeness of pediatric cancer to her own life fueled Ratzliff to hop on board when Wuller, her Sigma Kappa sister, got involved with the event. Ratzliff subsequently spent four months calling upon local businesses, like Whole Foods and Founding Farmers, to donate raffle prizes and money.
“I just want to make [Brianna] proud of me, that’s why I do this. You hear this a lot, but it’s really for the kids,” Ratzliff said.