Rutgers Dance Marathon is genuinely beautiful. College students abandon their usual habits to dance for an entire weekend in honor of children with cancer and blood disorders. If that’s not heartwarming, we don’t know what is.
Rutgers Dance Marathon is a 32-hour event (held in the College Avenue Gym in New Brunswick, NJ) where Rutgers students stay awake and on their feet to raise money for Embrace Kids Foundation. Embrace Kids is a charity that raises money for the non-medical needs of families with children with cancer or blood disorders.
Hurricane Productions has been involved with Rutgers Dance Marathon for the past seven years. During that time we’ve picked up on certain things that make it awesome. And in honor of Rutgers Dance Marathon’s 15th anniversary, we are going to share the top 15 reasons with you.
15. It’s a year long event – Though the Marathon itself is only 32 hours, students plan and fundraising for an entire year in preparation for one short weekend. The day after DM the Board of Directors and Central Planning Team sit down to congratulate themselves then quickly move on to review the weekend and begin improvements for the next year.
14. It’s completely student run – DM is a huge event – Not just a couple hundred students but several thousand students. And from top to bottom, this team of students has organized Dance Marathon entirely on its own. We’re talking everything from booking entertainment to seeking out sponsors to scheduling the entire 32 hours. That’s impressive.
13. The Organizations – There’s a common misconception that Rutgers Dance Marathon is an all Greek event. Organizations like the Catholic Students Association, Carpe DM and Douglass Residential College make DM possible. Greek and non-Greek organizations hold bake sales, coffee houses and other events all year to raise money for the Marathon.
12. The Dancers – Let’s be honest… the general public perceives college students as sometimes reckless and unprepared for the ‘real world.’ Everything about DM proves that audience wrong. Not many people would commit to stay awake and on their feet for 32-hours, but these students willingly do. And they do so with a smile. Not only that, they do it for a cause that directly makes a difference in the lives of children and their families. Nothing is more real than that.
11. The Total – Since its beginning in 1999, Rutgers Dance Marathon has raised over three million dollars FTK (for the kids). Each year students rally to raise more funds than the previous year, all in hopes of continuing the DM legacy. No one knows what the total is before it’s raised, so as the Dance Marathon Central Planning Team (CPT) reveals the total to the audience, DM alumni raise the total in the upstairs balcony of the College Ave Gymnasium. So the CPT gets to share in the same moment of surprise and joy as everyone else in the gym.
10. Magic 98.3 Radio-Thon – Each year, Magic 98.3 sets up camp in the College Ave Gym. The team does live interviews of students and families to raise money and awareness for Rutgers Dance Marathon. Interviews with people like Glenn Jenkins the Executive Director of Embrace Kids Foundation (seen above) give a voice to the cause.
9. The Guests – When influential people like Coach Kyle Flood, head of the Rutgers Football Team, or Eric LeGrand come to congratulate, motivate and applaud the students for their efforts, there is no better feeling. Coach Flood comes in the early hours on Sunday morning when the going gets tough. He takes time to recognize and motivate students to get them through the end.
8. The Line Dance – Every year DM students choreograph and develop a line dance for all the dancers to learn. The line dance has evolved from a simple slideshow to an iconic, visual centerpiece of Dance Marathon.
7. The Bands – The Marathon doesn’t require the dancers to actually dance the entire time, but to simply remain on their feet. Live bands, like the popular Jimmy and the Parrots and The Verdict come to keep the dancers rockin’ and help maintain motivation ’til the very end.
6. Club DM – Between the hours of midnight and 3AM Dance Marathon weekend, the College Ave Gym opens up to Rutgers students as an enormous nightclub. Hurricane Productions provides DJ entertainment, and for a small fee, Rutgers students can enter. Thousands of students participate, and all proceeds benefit Rutgers Dance Marathon.
5. Embrace Kids Foundation – In the past DM, like many other Marathons around the country, used to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network. Embrace Kids approached DM and gave them the option to raise money for their charity. Why? Because the children they impact are right in New Brunswick. And at the end of the day, students can see exactly what, and who, their efforts support. Embrace Kids Foundation is located right in New Brunswick and works with the Children’s Specialized Hospital at Robert Wood. The fact that Embrace Kids is a community leads us to our next point…
4. RU4Kids Program – Embrace Kids Foundation works with Dance Marathon to match student organization with families. Students are able to make a personal connection with the kids and their families by visiting them in the hospital. It’s the reason the students come back each year – they have someone to dance for.
3. Family Hour – It starts at hour 28 of the 32 hour event. Just when dancers’ feet are hurting and the energy is running low, patients and their families come to the gym to support play games, share a meal and support their organizations. The result is a teary hour or two, with speeches from the parents and patients thanking the students for doing what they do.
2. The Families – When a child is diagnosed with cancer, they are not the only person affected. The parents and siblings of these children are tremendously strong, dealing with the emotional, physical and monetary toll that the illness has on everyone.
1. The Kids – They’re the reason why a full gym is completely silent the moment before the total is raised, and booming the moment after. These children are resilient and brave. The hardships others have don’t even compare to what these kids endure at such a young age. The treatments they go through aren’t easy – screaming, yelling and tears often accompany them. But an hour later, a graceful smile passes on their face as they play a game with their siblings, parents, or better yet, their RU4Kids organization. They are the reason why Dance Marathon thrives.
These 15 reasons are just a sample of many that make Rutgers Dance Marathon so beautiful. If you want to learn more about Rutgers Dance Marathon and Embrace Kids Foundation, visit www.marathon.rutgers.edu or www.embracekids.org.