‘You feel like you never want to stop!’

Are you ready to dance?

More than 2,000 Carolina students are ready. They signed up for the annual UNC Dance Marathon, pledging to stand for 24 hours in a fundraiser to benefit the patients and families at N.C. Children’s Hospital. In its 16th year, UNC Dance Marathon has raised more than $3.7 million, including more than $430,000 last year.

The money goes toward grants at the hospital and to fund the needs of patients and their families that are not covered by insurance, such as gas cards, parking vouchers and meals. One of the 13 grants funded last year helps fund a recreational therapist in the pediatric hematology-oncology division to provide supportive and educational services for families. Another grant will go to the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill.

“We are trying to make the hospital stay as welcoming as possible,” says Renee Montpetit, the publicity chair for the UNC Dance Marathon. “Our goal is to help parents focus on their kids so they are not worried about meals or bills.”

UNC Dance Marathon starts at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Fetzer Gymnasium.

Dance moves
Dancing is the main activity, with DJs and performances scheduled throughout the event. But 24 hours is a long time to keep anyone’s feet moving, so organizers have planned other events to keep the participants energized.

Around midnight, the students will head outside for a snack and to watch a movie (while still standing) on Hooker Fields. In the middle of the night, there will be a mail drop, with letters to the participants from their families. And in the morning, the group will head to Kenan Stadium to watch the sunrise. A late-morning rave with glow sticks on Saturday is meant to infuse some energy into the group.

“It is so motivational to see all of the dancers, who after 17 hours of standing, jump around and smile and dance for over 30 minutes. It shows how dedicated they are to the cause because at that point in the marathon, they are still able to get fired up and excited about the cause,” says Liz Goslin, the executive director of the UNC Dance Marathon.

In mid-afternoon, the students will head back outside for games at Hooker Fields. Toward the end of the event, children and their families speak on stage about how UNC Dance Marathon helped them during their hospital stay.

“When you are this close to the cause, when you get to know the families on a personal level, it is impossible not to feel so strongly about it or feel like you need to do something,” Montpetit says.

The UNC Dance Marathon leaders reveal the fundraising total at the end of the event and the dancers, after 24 hours of being on their feet, are allowed to sit. As tired as they are, everyone gets so excited and they start dancing again, Montpetit says. “Their feet must be so tired, but you want to move again. You feel like you never want to stop!”

Story by Natalie Vizuete and graphic by Melanie Busbee of University Relations. 

Published March 21, 2014.