TCU Dance Marathon’s 2022 Executive Board. (Photo courtesy of TCU Dance Marathon taken by Ethan Mito).
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TCU Dance Marathon is a year-long fundraising effort in which members of the TCU and Fort Worth communities dance to raise money in support of their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, Cook Children’s Medical Center.

The fundraising efforts conclude with a 12-hour event where participants remain on their feet to celebrate the children from Cooks. Miracle families from the hospital are also seen at the event, participating in the games, food and fun before the final fundraising total is revealed at the closing ceremony. 

The 2022 Dance Marathon takes place on Feb. 26 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the DJ Kelly Alumni Center. Participants can register at the door if they haven’t already and are welcome to come anytime during the 12-hour event. The event consists of opening and closing ceremonies, as well as miracle family appearances throughout the day.

The Children’s Miracle Network Dance Marathon’s mission statement is “We are the generation fighting for the next.”

The organization raised $91,000 last year and hopes to raise $105,000 this year. All committee members stressed that any money raised will have a tremendous benefit to the hospital. 

“Cook has been so overrun with pediatric patients that have COVID,” said Alice Birchfield, Dance Marathon President and junior nursing major. “The hospital has had to change different units to become COVID units. Any amount is going to be a relief for the hospital and those kids.”

The money raised is used to pay for things that insurance and the hospital are unable to cover. In the past, the money has gone toward things like therapy dogs, new hospital equipment and the fun ambulances that take patients sightseeing in Fort Worth.

“Every single dollar makes some sort of a difference,” said Kaleigh Sinnott, Dance Marathon’s VP of Public Relations and senior strategic communication major.

Left to Right: Morgan Mastrangelo (VP of External Operations), Sarah Walter (VP of Finance), Alice Birchfield (President), Kaleigh Sinnott (VP of Public Relations) and Roxy Ordiorne (VP of Internal Operations). Photo courtesy of TCU Dance Marathon taken by Ethan Mito.

Birchfield and her executive board started planning for TCU’s 2022 Dance Marathon just weeks after the 2021 event ended.

“I started the interview process for the presidency within the first week of April, then was tasked with interviewing and selecting my executive board by the end of April,” said Birchfield.

Sinnott said she could relate to the quick turnaround from last year’s event to planning for this year’s.

“It’s been going on I feel like since the event last year wrapped up,” said Sinnott. “Our motto is ‘kids can’t wait,’ and it really feels like an ongoing thing since we have to be ready to start planning as soon as the previous year’s event ends. The event may come and go, but what we are doing never stops.”

Bri Gervais, TCU Dance Marathon’s Fundraising Director and sophomore nursing major, said the fundraising aspect is the most challenging part of the year-round event.

“Fundraising is what we do throughout the year, from the minute we are back on campus up until the event, we are constantly raising money for the kids,” said Gervais. “Fundraising can be hard, and I am always having to come up with new ideas to keep people encouraged. It is definitely the most important thing that we do.”

Due to COVID-19, the 2021 Dance Marathon was completely virtual. Participants joined through a Zoom conference call and remained on their feet for the duration of the 12-hour event. Miracle Families appeared throughout the call to share their stories with the event’s participants. This year, Dance Marathon plans for a fully in-person experience.

“The event is in-person this year, so we have been trying to figure out how to run this in-person again,” Sinnott said. “We have been having to shift our focus back to doing things in person, such as tabling around campus, which has been a bit of a challenge. We were constantly rolling with the punches with COVID, and social media allowed us to constantly market our program.”

Birchfield said she had the pleasure of watching the organization bloom and transform over the past three years. She said they actually learned a lot from a virtual event.

“The virtual aspect last year enhanced our social media abilities,” Birchfield said. “How we create graphics and portray things across social media has become more leveled up than before. We look more like a brand than just a club or organization. We brand ourselves better because of what we learned from the pandemic.”

Dance Marathon has been on TCU’s campus for seven years. Birchfield and her committee have found it difficult to raise awareness for the organization since key starters and contributors of the organization graduated.

“It’s been difficult to convey what Dance Marathon is to people who have never heard of it,” Birchfield said. “We have to work harder to convey what Dance Marathon is, what Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals are and how we work with Cook Children’s.”

Since 1983, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH) have helped to fill fundraising gaps by raising more than $7 billion. Its fundraising partners and programs aim to improve the lives of as many children as possible.

The CMNH hospital closest to TCU is Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth. Cook Children’s Health Care Systems strives to improve the health of every child located in their region through the prevention and treatment of illness, disease and injury. The non-profit is comprised of eight different entities: a medical center, a physician network, a home health company, surgery centers, a health plan, a health services and a health foundation. Cook Children’s believes that childhood should be simple, yet when things get tough, every child should have access to the best care possible.

Dance Marathon has six sponsored hours by TCU Panhellenic sororities this year. These sponsored hours consist of an activity or food donation from the chapters to help keep participants engaged at the event. 

“It’s so fun that every hour is different,” Sinnott said. “It keeps people engaged and excited about the event. It is an amazing day, and I can’t wait for it to finally be back in person.”

The link to register for the event or donate to the organization can be found here.

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