Dancing All Night Long

February 16, 2012

What do you get when you combine free food, live music, a night of dancing with friends, and a whole lot of passionate and generous college students?

Hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for charity, that’s what!

February seems to be the month for dance marathons. My own school, Columbia University, had theirs two weeks ago and raised over $76,000 for the fight against AIDs. The money goes towards providing medications that prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child. The medication only costs $19 per child, so the Dance Marathon helped almost 4,000 people.

Penn State’s THON, starting today at 6pm and continuing for a whopping 46 hours (now that’s endurance!), is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, according to its website. Since its founding in 1973, the organization has raised more than $78 million—

yes, that’s 8 digits—to benefit the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.

Many other universities are in on the fun as well: University of North Carolina, Stanford, UConn, and Ohio State among others have recently held or are preparing for dance marathons.

So what does participating in one of these entail? It’s a bigger commitment than just one night. Dancers fundraise for months before the big night, and volunteer organizers are in charge of finding and setting up a space, hiring performers, providing food, and handling

sound and stage equipment.

The hard work totally pays off. At Columbia, dancers were rewarded with Nutella paninis, grilled cheeses and free massages that enabled them to keep dancing for 18 straight hours. But nothing compares to feeling that you’re making a difference. As Emily McConnell, a senior at Penn State and dancer in THON, wrote in a blog for the Huffington Post, “My fellow dancers and I will endure aching feet and exhaustion because we know our pain is nothing compared to the battles these kids face on a daily basis.”