More than $43,000 was raised at the fifth annual University of West Florida Dance Marathon in support of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, a nonprofit organization that raises funds and awareness for approximately 170 pediatric hospitals in North America. All proceeds from the 10-hour event at the UWF Commons Conference Center will be donated to the Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola.
The Miracle Network Dance Marathon is held at more than 300 locations across the country each year to ensure no child or family fights pediatric illness or injury alone. This was the second year Fraternity and Sorority Life staff members advised the Dance Marathon executive board. Last year, the event raised $11,300, up from $3,500 in 2015.
“I am elated with the rise in success of Dance Marathon,” said Dr. Kevin Bailey, vice president of student affairs. “The students have done a phenomenal job of making this event something they and UWF can be proud of, and this is only the beginning.”
Aubrey Frazier, assistant director for leadership, service and fraternity/sorority life, said the connection students established with the “Miracle Kids” inspired the fundraising effort. The Dance Marathon executive board members visited Studer Children’s Hospital and interacted with the children before the event.
“It’s amazing we were able to raise so much money, but it’s also amazing to see how much they cared about the cause,” Frazier said.
UWF sophomore Ashley Sepessy described interacting with “Miracle Kids” as a rewarding experience. Sepessy befriended a high school sophomore during her visits to the hospital.
“She would tell me all about her life and her boy problems,” said Sepessy, who served as morale director on the Dance Marathon executive board. “We colored together, and it was just a really good way to spend time together.”
“Miracle Kids” participated in the Dance Marathon and shared their stories with the crowd. The ages of the children ranged from infants to 18. One of the highlights of the night for Sepessy was teaching the children how to line dance.
Jake Tomlin, graduate assistant for Fraternity and Sorority Life, said 343 students danced at the event. Students danced in two shifts at the Commons Conference Center and stood on their feet for a total of 10 hours as a gesture for those who can’t.
UWF fraternities and sororities, along with other student organizations, raised funds as teams. The Alpha Delta Pi sorority won the “Miracle Ball” competition by raising nearly $8,000. Kappa Delta sorority finished runner-up. Overall, 19 teams participated and raised an average of $1,700 each.