Students ready to dance

Scott Niles and Scott Niles

This weekend marks the seventh year for one of the biggest University events–Dance Marathon.

The event started out as a Greek organization fundraiser in 1996 and has grown since. Participants spend 32 hours on their feet to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network.

This is an event that is built up all year long and it is well worth the effort put into it, said Rita Chess, dancer group representative (DGR) chair.

“We have had one meeting a week since October to get ready for the event,” Chess said.

“I’m looking forward to the whole weekend because the steering committee and everyone involved has worked so hard to make this event possible,” Chess said.

Sarah Hague, Dance Marathon morale chair, said she has been amazed in how the number of participating organizations grow each year .

“With this year’s Dance Marathon, we have 350 dancers and moralers, and that is not including everyone else who is participating,” Hague, said.

Brant Pumpa, assistant director for Internal Affairs with the event said that he is amazed and very pleased with the growth of the turnout from year to year.

“Just in the past two years we have had involvement from 20 more organizations,” Pumpa said.

The efforts of the students are what make the event, and without them it couldn’t happen, he said.

“This is an event that draws attention to this University on a national level,” Pumpa said. “I have been to conferences where people have came up to me and ask me, ‘Isn’t Bowling Green the one that puts on that Dance Marathon event?'”

Pumpa said that Bowling Green State University is the third largest Children’s Miracle Network sponsor in the nation.

“When the event started in 1996 it raised over $4,500, where in 2002 the amount of money raised was over $315,000,” Pumpa said.

This event not only helps to raise money for a charitable cause but it also proves the negative stereotypes of college student to be false, said Allison Post, public relations chair.

“Each year we have parents come up to us and tell us how they can’t believe that a bunch of college students could pull off an event like this,” Post said. “It always shocks them to see how much college students can really do and how much they actually care.”

The families are always anxious for the event as much as the children are.

“This is a time that their children can get away from their problems and see college students as role models and what they can do and possibly encourage them to help people out in their futures,” Post said.

This 32-hour event is well worth it, Kelly Courter said, events management chair.

“Seeing what our money is going toward in the hospital and seeing how it affects the families is wonderful,” Courter said. David Humphrey, director of the event, said that the event is an emotional experience.

“I think one of the greatest things about Dance Marathon is when the dancers actually feel the real effect of what is taking place,” Humphrey said. “Through their achy muscles and sore feet the dancers are able to feel the impact and know what it is all about.”

Humphrey said that once you have been a dancer or involved with the event you it is hard not to become involved again.

“Its a sense of feeling you get when you know that you have impacted the life of a child,” Humphrey said. “People want to come back and help out with the event each year.”

Families from past years recall their experiences

By Carrie Whitaker

Campus News Editor

Since the University’s first Dance Marathon in 1996, children from Northwest Ohio and their families have been supported and sponsored by groups on campus through Dance Marathon. Families from the past years have not forgotten their experience here at Bowling Green.

Linda Prephan said she remembers her experience with Dance Marathon three years ago. Her two boys, David and Nicholas, both suffer from a rare lung condition.

“My boys are always excited about going back to Dance Marathon every year,” Prephan said.

Each year, students who are involved with Dance Marathon take tours through St. Vincent Hospital’s children’s ward and Prephan said that students recognized her son David in the hospital this year.

“David was happy that the students recognized him, by touring the hospital they get to see what they are dancing and raising money for,” Prephan said.

Another parent, Mary McGill, said her children Jim and Laura were sponsored a few years ago through Dance Marathon. McGill said that her children have kept in contact with some of the students who sponsored them years ago.

“Now that my children are older, they still keep in touch with some of the students, many who have graduated, through e-mail,” McGill said. “I don’t think the students realize how much they affect the kids and families that they are sponsoring.”

During the year that McGill’s children were involved in Dance Marathon she was employed as a child life specialist at St. Vincent Hospital. She said she was able to see where the funds raised by Dance Marathon went and who the funds benefited because of her position at the hospital.

“When we found out that the children qualified to be sponsored in the Dance Marathon we saw it as an adventure that we could all enter into as a family,” McGill said. “I thought we would be giving, I ended up getting emotional support that I didn’t even realize I needed–the experience was bigger than I realized.”

It is important, McGill said, that parents of Miracle Children are at a certain spot in their lives where they are able to speak up about their children’s illnesses.

“You have to be able to say, ‘This is what is wrong with my child and this is a part of our everyday life’,” McGill said.

Sarah Watercutter was a Miracle Child several years ago. Now 16, she said she remembers being involved in Dance Marathon and how much fun it brought into her life.

“Dance Marathon is such a pick-me-up because you get to see people being together and having fun,” Watercutter said. “My family had a great time too.”

Watercutter, who was born with spina bifida, said that being with other children was important.

“I saw kids going through the same thing I was going through and I realized that things could always be worse,” Watercutter said. With 22 Miracle Children being sponsored this weekend in the eighth annual Dance Marathon, the experience for these families will culminate during the 32 hours of the Marathon.

McGill said she hopes students here at the University understand the impact Dance Marathon has on families from past marathons and the present one.

“I worry that students see Dance Marathon as a pebble being thrown in the water but that they do not know where the ripples lead,” McGill said. “But this event really is a big thing in the lives of the families.”