What do Will Ferrell, Danny Green, and 1,100 UNC-Chapel Hill students have in common? Not much, except that all were present at UNC-CH’s 10th annual Dance Marathon Feb. 22-23. I am proud to say that I was one of those students in a sea of rainbow-colored t-shirts who chicken danced, line danced, and walked it out for 24 hours to raise $321,938.53 for the North Carolina Children’s Hospital.

Before this weekend, Dance Marathon didn’t have a great deal of significance to me, and I didn’t know very much about it. Before this weekend, it meant another line on my to-do list in terms of calling relatives to raise the $100 required to participate. It meant an extra push to get some work done, and a target to get to bed early the week before, which inevitably did not happen. Dance Marathon is so much more meaningful that I realized at the time, and something the majority of UNC-CH students are missing out on.

Still unaware of this piece of insight on Friday evening, I made my way down to Fetzer gym in my most comfortable tennis shoes and with toothbrush at hand. This is where the Dance Marathon experience began. Coming up to the front entrance to the gym I was immediately greeted with loud cheers of “moralers” who are the equivalent of the spirit team, dressed in wildly eccentric eighties-style outfits. Dancers were ushered through a tunnel of high-fiving moralers, and into the gym whose walls were papered from floor to ceiling with banners with witty, encouraging, or cheesy dance-themed sayings. One of my favorites was something along the lines of, “Dance Marathon registration: $100, booty dancing with your hot lab partner: priceless.”

My first impression of this all night stand “for the kids” was that it was incredibly organized and incredibly spirited. Dancers were kept moving the entire night with activities like dance offs and pie eating contests and performances including the men’s soccer team and a Beatles cover band. At 6 a.m. the dancers were herded out of Fetzer gym, and across Stadium Drive to the football stadium where the drum line and dance team were waiting for us. Dance Marathon participants danced on the track to the drums, and brought on the dawn with warm up stretches with the dance team. To wake up before the sun was a show of commitment on their part, and dancing together made the University feel smaller and more unified.

The best moment of Dance Marathon was “Family Hour” when parents and hospital workers shared stories about our money which went to a calling card for a child to call his parents long distance, and to pay the medical expenses of two girls that were born weighing just over one pound. This poignant moment in the night instilled in us a sense of purpose. I have never felt closer to my fellow Tar Heels that that night when we swayed on swollen feet and sang “Lean on Me.”

Dance Marathon makes an incredible difference in the lives of children and their families, and this year a record amount of students participated.For the Children’s Hospital and for the bond built over the course of 24 hours, Dance Marathon should only grow in strength.

By Hannah Taylor