UA dance marathon planning bigger and better event

With the 2013 University of Alabama Dance Marathon quickly approaching, organizers are working to increase student and organization involvement with hope to mimic other schools’ DM events, some of which have raised as much as $500,000 to benefit Children’s Miracle Network.

Tyler Rigdon, president of UADM, said he became encouraged to start Dance Marathon at the Capstone after one of his friends from the University of Florida showed him a highlight video of UF’s Dance Marathon.

“Those highlights really opened my eyes to the difference that Dance Marathon can have, especially on a campus with the size, growth and accessibility as UA’s,” Rigdon said.

UADM will be on March 9 at the University Recreational Center from noon to 8 p.m. The philanthropic event benefits the Children’s Hospital of Alabama and the Children’s Miracle Network. The Children’s Miracle Network helps children suffering from a broken bone all the way to those suffering from cancer.

Registration is $25, which includes a T-shirt and food, as well as participation in the games, activities and dancing. The event celebrates taking a stand against illnesses and diseases and raising money for children.

Rigdon said each hour of UADM is themed, so the activities are going to reflect the theme of the hour. Rigdon said three of these themes, as of now, are National Championship, Harry Potter and Holiday.

“National Championship hour is basically a sports hour dedicated to activity games spotlighting UA’s four national championships last year (football, softball, gymnastics, and golf),” Rigdon said. “Harry Potter hour will involve multiple games, two of them being Quidditch and Human Chess. As for Holiday hour, we picked the most random assortment of holidays and shaped games around them.”

McKenzie Pope, UADM director of corporate relations, said for the last hour last year they had a “Circle of Hope” where one of the families spoke about what it meant to have a day dedicated to the fight their son has faced nearly every day of his life.

“I remember standing in tears [last year] because I was so moved by the notion that a bunch of college kids coming together for a cause like this could have such an impact on a family’s life,” Pope said. “It was really great to see first hand the good that comes from an event like dance marathon, and I encourage everyone to come and participate in this year’s event.”

Pope said the support Dance Marathon provides for the families are really remarkable.

“It’s not just about raising money and awareness, it’s about being a support system for these families,” Pope said. “The DM program means more to them than most of those who participate will ever really be able to understand.”

Rigdon said it was inspiring to see the support and participation from UA athletes and surprise guests in last year’s DM.

“Jesse Williams, one of our Miracle Children’s favorite athletes, attended the event last year, as well as Carl Engstrom, Ben Eblen and various pageant winners from this area,” Rigdon said. “However, I can guarantee that Big Al will be in attendance for nearly all of the event.”

Rigdon said he is looking forward to the evolution of UADM’s event since last year.

“We will have 200 to 300 more students attend the event, five to seven more Children’s Miracle Network families in attendance and more sponsors and creative ideas that will shape UADM into an amazing experience,” Rigdon said.

Gloria Kelly, UADM vice president of external affairs, said she first heard about Dance Marathon from one of her friends who was the president at Florida State University’s DM.

“There are many ideas and things I have learned especially from other schools like FSU, such as sponsorship ideas, who to promote this too and things like that,” Kelly said. “I just want this organization to grow to be a main event everyone at UA looks forward to every year.”

For the past two years, Rigdon said the team has visited Auburn’s Dance Marathon during their event and plan to visit Florida’s this year.

“Auburn’s Dance Marathon is very young like ours, but has turned into one of the most successful startup Dance Marathons across the country,” Rigdon said. “We are looking to have an ongoing relationship with them, and hopefully we can create a joint ‘rivalry-fueled’ partnership in the future, similar to Beat Auburn Beat Hunger.”

Chris Dawson, current UA law student and advisor to the UADM Overall Team, said he participated in the Dance Marathon at the University of Florida for five years from 2007-2010 and served as the overall director of community events for UF.

“I watched DM at UF grow exponentially while I was there, and I was very fortunate to be on the Overall Team in 2010 when we broke the $500,000 mark,” Dawson said.

(See also [Video] "National Championship Celebration Parade 2012")

Dawson said DM at UF is more of a movement, or even a way of life, than simply being a once-a-year event.

“UF’s success is found in the devotion of the thousands of students who plan, organize, participate, fundraise, and basically live it year-round,” Dawson said. “Literally the day after one Dance Marathon ends, hundreds of UF students begin to work on the fundraising and planning efforts for the next year.”

Dawson said his goal is to share his experiences from UF and to help UADM catch on and grow as quickly as possible.

“UA Dance Marathon is at a different place in its evolution, but I am very encouraged by the progress I have seen, even in the short time I have been helping out,” Dawson said.

Dawson said he wants as many students as possible to be able to participate in DM and know what it feels like to make a true difference in the world.

“I believe Alabama has tremendous potential to grow its Dance Marathon into one of the nation’s largest,” Dawson said. “I am very excited to be able to play even the smallest role in helping that become a reality.”

For more info and to register, go online to the UADM website and click the “Register for DM” to create a team.

“There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the impact on the families,” Rigdon said. “Watching them hold up the final raised total of the event reminds us that our goals during the year had reached its full potential.”

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