This weekend marked 24 years of change. Dance Marathon raised over $255,000 for the children and families of Mercy Children’s Hospital. Over the last 24 years, the event has raised more than $5 million.   

Dance Marathon has changed the course of children’s lives—giving them one more birthday, one more summer, one more first experience and maybe even one more day. Students gathered with children and families of the Mercy Children’s Hospital in Toledo, Ohio, to commence the 24-hour celebration.

For the past several months, participants have been hard at work fundraising for the children. From bikers to dancers, students chanted, “for the kids,” through the whole weekend.

Alumni Tewana Smileymade her way back to BGSU for the weekend. In the past five years, Smiley has been a dancer on the Entertainment Core Committee and a Silver Morale Captain.

“This organization was one of the most positive and beautiful aspects of my college career and I love giving back to it and supporting it as an alumni because it gave me much more than I could ever give it in return,” Smiley said. “When I see the miracle children, I see my siblings and I want nothing but the best for all kids everywhere because they didn’t ask to be brought into this world, they didn’t ask to be sick.”

In recent years, Bowling Green added the program Bikes for Tikes. Students fundraise then bike from Cincinnati back to Bowling Green over the weekend. This year students left last Thursday evening for their journey.

Senior Katie Devore is going on two years of biking for Dance Marathon. Devore was excited to make change and work with the children this year. With both physical and mental training, Devore’s devotion and passion are nothing short of dedicated.

“These kids are worth the struggle of every mile and of every hour danced. This event means I am helping make a better tomorrow for the kids who need us most,” Devore said.

Improving from her first year of Dance Marathon, Devore has successfully raised over $1,000 this year. Last year, she realized just how big of an impact her donations made by meeting the children that they are given to.

“I had a miracle child come up to us bikers and say she wanted to be just like us when she grew up. That hit me hard because in their eyes they look at us as the heros. They see us as the ones making a change but they are the ones changing us,” Devore said.

This is a running theme from each biker, dancer and exec member talked to. Simply put, it was all for the kids.

Junior Bennett Clark spent his first year being on the exec team as the Assistant Director of Internal Affairs. Being in charge of campus interactions, Clark oversaw five committees:  Morale Captains, Campus Outreach, Multimedia, Social Media, and Participant Relations.

Clark also planned and executed “Make a Difference Day” last October. The goal was to get as many students to participate in Dance Marathon as possible.

“There has been so much going into this event. It has definitely been a game changer, going from the lowest step into leadership into one of the highest. There are so many behind the scene jobs that I didn’t notice had happened before,” Clark said.

Going on his third year of fundraising, Clark’s journey went from meeting the minimum his first year to exceeding expectations.

“Last year when I was a morale captain I raised $1,300 and right now I’m sitting at about $700 trying to raise about $1,000 this year,” Clark said.

During Dance Marathon, Clark was able to raise the additional $300 but also exceeded it raising more than $1,600 this year. The push to fundraise came from meeting and working with the Miracle families, similar to junior Samantha Ernst.

Ernst is on her third year of participating in Dance Marathon. This year, she is the event management chair. Next year Ernst will be on the exec team as assistant director of planning.

“I never would have thought I would do something like that again, I was never the type of person to put myself out there like DM. And I think it helped me grow especially in this organization, it made me more comfortable with the things that we do,” Ernst said, reflecting on her past as a morale captain.

Ernst has grown in her fundraising strategies over the years. Her first year, she just met the minimum, which at the time was a $110.

After participating in the marathon and seeing what all her donations could do for families, Ernst strived to beat her total every year. During her sophomore year, she managed to raise over $1,000.

“It was more of knowing I did it last year and knowing the impact that amount of money can do to help the hospital, the kids, and their families,” Ernst said. “I feel like the more passion I had behind it was the more I was pushing myself to find new ways to fundraise. I think the mentality was I want to raise my fundraising goal every year and that’s what I have been doing.”

Ernst ended this Dance Marathon with raising over $1,000 for the Miracle families whose lives are surely not the only ones changed through this event.

Her freshman year, Ernst found her “home away from home” in friendship and community through her sorority. However, Dance Marathon has also shown her a different type of home that one can have through this event and at BG.

“There are so many different people from so many different backgrounds. It has made me realize what my values are and what I look for in other people,” Ernst said. “But really just how big of an impact something so small can be. It makes me know I’m apart of something that is way bigger than myself.”


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