Just last year, a group of over 700 Lehigh students and faculty members made their way to Grace Hall, where they pledged to remain standing for eight hours. The night was filled with activities, charity and dancing.
That night marked the debut of Dance Marathon on Lehigh’s campus, which raised $39,311.54 for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
This year, a whole new group of dedicated students are itching to match that success. Dance Marathon will once again take place in Grace Hall on Nov. 8 from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Although Dance Marathon only came to Lehigh’s campus last year, it is an event that has taken place at other schools across the country for years. According to the official Dance Marathon website, over 250 schools in America participate in the event annually to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
“CHOP is so important to us because it is a hospital that does not turn away any child, regardless of the severity of their ailment or their parents’ ability to pay,” said Leah Gonzalez, ’15, the event’s external director. “The fact that we’re doing even a little bit is just so great.”
The new executive board for this year’s event is completely different from last year’s founding board. Yet most of them, like Gonzalez, draw their inspiration and dedication for the event from their involvement in the club last year.
Toby Nicastro, ’15, volunteered at last year’s event as one of many morale dancers. This group was responsible for dancing all throughout the night and keeping spirits high. This year, however, Nicastro has taken on the executive position of dance relations chair, which mainly involves making sure people sign up and participate.
“I think, because I was so involved last year, I wished that I had more responsibilities,” Nicastro said. “I saw how rewarding it was for (last year’s executive board), especially on the day of the event, and I wanted to be a part of that and help it continue.”
Nicastro said the transition between executive boards, however, was difficult mainly due to time constraints. While last year’s executive board had about a year and half of planning after the original conception of the club, this year’s executive board had only about six months.
“We had to re-learn everything,” Gonzalez said.
But due to the success of last year’s event, which capped its registration capacity at 800 people, this year’s Dance Marathon will be set up very similarly. It will still run for eight hours, with each hour sponsored by a different club or organization. Morale dancers will also still be dancing through the crowds to keep people excited.
Gonzalez said different performers and bands will attend the event this year. The names of all will be announced at a later date.
The executive board also hopes to have high participation from the Lehigh community throughout the night, according to Maggie Boyle, ’15, the event’s morale chair.
“The actual number of people throughout the event (last year) fluctuated a bit,” Boyle said. “We are really looking to have a large crowd the entire time by keeping high participation and energy throughout the entire event.”
Boyle said that so far, over 400 people have registered for Dance Marathon, and the club size has doubled.
Other members of the Lehigh community have already reached out to the executive board in hopes of helping.
“I’m so impressed with the Lehigh community,” Boyle said.
Some of this support has rolled over from the event last year. However, planning an event in only its second year can come with some uncertainties and challenges.
This year can still be characterized as a planning stage because the board is still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t, Boyle said. The board’s members also do not have years’ worth of resources like many other clubs on campus do.
“I think we are at a pivotal point where it could either fizzle or grow,” Nicastro said.
The hope is that the club will grow from some of the standards that were created last year, while also trying to set its own traditions and leave its mark.
“The founding members of Dance Marathon created this awesome vision,” Boyle said. “And now we get to steer it in a direction.”
The executive board hopes Dance Marathon can continue to be a unifying event for the Lehigh campus, with its focus remaining on the kids at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. This focus allows participants to really break out of the Lehigh bubble, Boyle said.
“It gives us all a healthy reality check that there are things out there that are bigger than ourselves,” Boyle said. “You would have had no idea that those kids had gone through anything dealing with CHOP just by the smiles on their faces.”