GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Students who participated in Dance Marathon at the University of Florida 2013 raised a record-breaking total of $1,169,722 for Children’s Miracle Network at Shands Hospital for Children at the University of Florida.
This is the first time ever that the event, held Saturday and Sunday (April 13-14) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on the UF campus in Gainesville, broke the million-dollar mark. Last year, Dance Marathon at UF raised just under $887,000.
“Congratulations to Dance Marathon on a terrific achievement,” UF President Bernie Machen said. “The good these students do for the Children’s Miracle Network is inspiring, and I know the thousands of parents whose sons and daughters have benefited are grateful for all of their hard work.”
Marking its 19th year, Dance Marathon at UF included 830 dancers moving and shaking for 26.2 hours in support of Children’s Miracle Network and the patients at Shands Hospital for Children. Opening ceremonies began at 11 a.m. Saturday and closing ceremonies wrapped up the event at 2:45 p.m. Sunday.
Participants were not only challenged to stay on their feet for the duration of the marathon, they learned a unique line dance that they practiced and performed throughout the event.
“I’m not a natural-born dancer but I started getting it around hour 10, and I think that, by the end, we all had it down,” said UF sophomore Melissa Dukes. “It was great to be part of something bigger than myself, and it’s surreal that we broke $1 million. It’s a sign of how people can pull together and help others.”
Raising a million dollars is a huge milestone for Dance Marathon at UF. The event began in 1995 with just 81 dancers, who stayed on their feet for 32 hours and raised $12,424 for Shands Hospital for Children at UF.
Since then, Dance Marathon at UF has raised more than $6.4 million, supporting Shands Hospital for Children and the department of pediatrics at the UF College of Medicine.
“The funds raised from this extraordinary student-run event will help us continue our commitment to providing the highest quality of care for the kids at Shands Hospital for Children,” said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president for health affairs and president of UF&Shands Health System. “The dollars will be put to immediate use toward construction of our new neonatal intensive care unit, purchasing needed equipment and supporting faculty research that is directed at improved prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases.”
UF students danced alongside patients and heard stories from 50 Ambassador Families at the event, which reminded dancers why their efforts are so meaningful.
“Thank you for all the right reasons,” Brian Winckler told the crowd of students on the first morning. Winckler’s 4-year-old daughter, Bailey, is finally on her way to a normal childhood after enduring 13 surgeries to correct several health problems since birth. “What you’re doing here is helping to make things just a little bit easier for those families who are up at Shands right now.”
More than 1,000 student volunteers planned the event, and about 3,000 visitors and participants visited the dancers to provide encouragement and support.
Dance Marathon at UF is one of the founding five dance marathons benefiting Children’s Miracle Network. It is the third-largest Dance Marathon benefiting Children’s Miracle Network, with Indiana University and Iowa University as first and second, respectively.