Dancing the night away for a charitable cause

“Party with a purpose” was more than just the phrase on the 2008 Dance Marathon (DM) shirts – it was the goal of the entire event.

After planning and fundraising at the Center for Civic Engagement and Volunteerism, the event of the year was a 12-hour dance marathon in the upper level of the Campus Recreation Center from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday.

With a turnout of almost 400 people spanning 45 teams, $17,630 was raised for the children at All Children’s Hospital. The event was part of the Children’s Miracle Network, an alliance of premier hospitals for children.

The dancing doesn’t stop in Tampa. DM is a nationwide event, and is expanding rapidly worldwide.

“Each DM is different,” staff adviser Christy Burke said. “The lineup of activities, planning and attractions all depend on the student coordinators.”

The night was planned down to the minute with a musical theme for each hour that included special appearances by disc jockeys from WOYK 99.5 and WILD 98.7, games, raffles, food and even a jail. Dancers could pay to put someone in jail on the condition that their bond was twice what was paid to put them in.

“Most people don’t realize the cause that they’re supporting when they get involved,” said external director Erica Reynoso, a criminal justice major.

All money raised will go to the construction of a new All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. The structure will increase the variety of services available to children and their families.

“It isn’t until the dancers have a name, face and story attached to the cause that they are supporting that they understand,” said Reynoso. Each team received a picture and story of a child for whom they were dancing.

Several All Children’s patients, past and present, made appearances. The group included little Katie Thai, who sang “If We Hold on Together” by Jordin Sparks.

Heather Haskell, a music education major, shared her experiences as a childhood patient of All Children’s.

“It’s a small step that we are taking for the cause, but if we save one life through our combined efforts, it will all have been worth it,” said Reynoso.

USF President Judy Genshaft also attended the event, providing the opening address to students.

“What makes me most proud is this amazing turnout,” Genshaft said. “It shows how much USF cares about all of the Tampa Bay community.”