Sweat and sore feet at Mizzou Dance Marathon all 'for the kids'

Wednesday, March 6, 2013 | 8:04 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — A lot can happen in 13.1 hours.

Starting at noon on Saturday, 874 registered dancers will converge at the MU Student Recreation Complex for the fifth annual Mizzou Dance Marathon, and they don't plan to stop dancing for 13.1 hours.

The 2012 event featured 12 hours of dancing, but this year's organizers wanted to add time to the event and settled on 13.1 hours — signifying the length of a half-marathon.

Mizzou Dance Marathon is an event sponsored and hosted by a group of the same name, one of the largest philanthropic student organizations at MU. Since 2008, students and community members have danced and raised more than $150,000 to be donated to the MU Children’s Hospital, a local hospital that serves mid-Missouri, in partnership with the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

As the organization's motto goes: It's all for the kids. 

The event works in conjunction with families who have children currently receiving care in the children’s hospital.

Families become involved with the marathon by learning about it either through advertising at the hospital or hospital representatives.

This year, 15 families representing 16 children were designated as Miracle Families. Each dance team is assigned a Miracle Kid to get to know and to represent at the event.

Marathon participants are encouraged to become acquainted with the children and families through events hosted by Dance Marathon throughout the year, including potlucks and craft nights. Many of the children and families also attend the marathon and, if able, dance alongside participants.

Annie Bastida, the executive director of the marathon’s Steering Committee and a second year graduate student at MU studying public heath, has participated for the past four years.

“The biggest thing for me is that the students and the families we get to work with are the most inspiring people I know,” Bastida said. “The families spend their free days with college students on top of doctor visits, appointments and everything else they have to do. Some families drive over an hour to hang out with students.”

Over the past four years, Bastida has developed a bond with multiple families. In the past, she’s been invited over to a family’s home for dinner. 

“It makes everything fall into perspective when you can see them in their home environment,” she said.

Mizzou Dance Marathon has committed to donating $75,000 to the hospital each year for the next five years. The fundraising goal was exceeded Wednesday afternoon, when online donations reached more than $76,000.

Now the goal has been amended to $100,000 to encourage additional donations and a final amount will be announced at the marathon's conclusion at 1:06 a.m. Sunday, said Kate McIntyre, Mizzou Dance Marathon director of public relations.

“We don’t want our supporters to think we’ve reached our goal,” McIntyre said. “We want to keep moving it up because there’s always more need for financial and emotional support for our Miracle Families. The sky’s the limit.”

Funds are allocated by the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals to support programs such as the hematology and oncology department at the hospital, a music therapy program and the TeleHealth Loving Care program, which is a video tool that allows soldiers and moms in other hospitals see their children via iPad, according to a news release provided by Mizzou Dance Marathon.

Throughout the marathon, dancers are asked not to wear a watch or consume caffeine, though a swipe of deodorant is encouraged. But those aren’t enforceable rules, the one that counts is simple: Don’t sit down.

“The idea is that we don’t want them checking their watches,” McIntyre said. “When people get tired, we just ask that they remember the kids’ struggles.”

Student volunteers, who are designated as members of the Steering Committee, operate the event and day-to-day operations leading up to the marathon. The committee is open to MU students of all ages and is responsible for securing sponsorship for the event, connecting dance teams with Miracle Families and organizing the logistics of the marathon.

Visitors are encouraged to join in on the dancing during the marathon for a donation of $5 for three hours.

Dance teams have collected offline donations throughout the school year from businesses, people in downtown Columbia and multiple restaurants offering “dine and donate” events, in which the business donates a portion of their profit to the marathon.

The marathon has grown in its first five years. Last year 557 dancers participated and raised a total of $76,724.

“We’ve had huge progress this year, not only in engaging dancers with families early on, but also as far as fundraising,” McIntyre said. “We’re just blowing those numbers out of the water.”

Supervising editor is Zach Murdock.

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