UI students inspired to dance for kids, miracle

On Friday night at the ARC, about 250 University students gathered to dance the night away. The third annual Illinois Dance Marathon began as the students ran through a human tunnel into the gym, exchanging smiles and high fives to the tune of “Eye of the Tiger.”

Students participated in the marathon as either part of a team or as an individual; all dancers were encouraged to raise at least $100.

The Illini Dance Marathon raised money to supports the Children’s Miracle Network with St. John’s Children’s Hospital. These organizations provide care for children with a variety of diseases such as cancer, heart disease and cerebral palsy.

“We were not ready for those first two months, but St. John’s was,” said Judy Vlach, Springfield area resident.

Vlach spoke at the dance and is the mother of Brianna, who is 8 years old and was born prematurely. Brianna was diagnosed as the 21st patient with Marshall-Smith syndrome, which is a childhood condition that causes breathing problems for babies and prevents normal weight gain.

Following the dancers into the gym, Vlach and other Illinois families of children who have benefitted from the Children’s Miracle Network walked in through the arch of arms as students chanted, “D-M, for the kids!”

Students who attended the event listened to these families’ stories. While the families discussed the serious nature of their children’s illnesses, the event also included an element of fun, as students stayed on their feet for 15 hours straight.

From 8 p.m. to 11 a.m. students danced, ate, laughed and participated in a variety of other activities. Some students played ping-pong with the visiting children.

Prior to the event, Windsor Wrolstad, freshman in LAS, mentioned looking forward to learning the “morale dance.” The morale committee choreographed a dance that was about 15 minutes long and was designed to keep students motivated through the night. The committee taught dancers one minute of the morale dance each hour.

Beth Papanek, president of Illini Dance Marathon and senior in LAS, said one of the organization’s goals this year was to raise more money and have more students participate.

Last year, the event raised about $10,000. The goal for this year’s fundraiser was $25,000.

“I’m happy to report that we will be writing a check to the Children’s Miracle Network for $27,687,” Papanek said.

Papanek credited the success of this goal to increased support from the Greek community as well as a “more cohesive executive board.”

The Illini Dance Marathon said it hopes that it continues to grow and gain support from students and the Champaign-Urbana community, Papanek added.

The 2011 Illini Dance Marathon is scheduled to be held next February.

Even with the event’s fundraising goals, Papanek said participants should come away from the dance marathon with a memory of the families their funds will be helping.

“Standing on your feet for 15 hours straight isn’t exactly fun but knowing that you’re doing it for a good reason, for kids who are here who would love to be able to stand for 15 hours straight … I really hope that that’s what participants take away from the dance marathon,” she said.”