Dance Marathon: Standing for Kids Who Can't
Zac Johnson is the director of Dance Marathon, a national fundraising program benefiting CMN Hospitals. Follow him at @CMN_Zac.
When you think about college students, it's easy to go for the clichés: four years of a carefree attitude filled with parties and occasional studying. But there is a very important side to the college experience that is not being shared nearly enough. It has the power to raise millions of dollars, engage thousands of future leaders, and shine a bright light on America's future.
It's called Dance Marathon and across this nation, hundreds of schools and thousands of student leaders are continually out-fundraising professional fundraisers as they strive, year after year, to grow a proud tradition at their school. A tradition that is based on something simple and pure- throw the best party on campus for 12…24…36 hours in honor of the children treated at their local Children's Miracle Network Hospital.
The money these young volunteers have raised (over $60 million since the program began) seems mind-blowing at times. How is this all accomplished? How do they continue to raise more, year after year, in spite of all the challenges? It really can be distilled down to one key ingredient. Passion.
Experiencing passion in its purest form was what drove me, tears in my eyes, into a Chicago alleyway this past April. It was on a warm, sun-drenched day that represented the culminating weekend of the most successful semester for our Dance Marathon program ever. On the campus of DePaul University, student leaders in their inaugural Dance Marathon were about to accomplish something no other school had done before: break a six-figure total in their first year.
But it wasn't the astronomical funds raised, or bringing the national program I love to my old hospital, or even seeing the smiles on the faces of the many Children's Memorial Hospital patient families who I'm lucky to still call friends that made me flee the DePaul student rec center to compose myself… it was experiencing the passion of the students there- and by extension their peers across the nation- who in that moment of their first Dance Marathon become among the most loyal champions for this cause and the kids we serve.
Three schools actually broke the first year fundraising record this year, one right after the other: University of Northern Iowa, Auburn University, and DePaul University. Their success is the perfect allegory for the success of the program as a whole. From our two seven-figure programs, Indiana University and University of Iowa, to our third and forth highest fundraising programs, The University of Florida and Florida State University, who both continue to increase by 20% or more year after year.
From up-and-coming programs like The Ohio State University, University of Connecticut, and University of Maryland who have done so much to revolutionize the way we fundraise, doubling year after year, to all the programs who fight through difficult years based solely on their belief in the mission. It is that drive to do better, to strive higher, to believe in something so much and so passionately that these leaders refuse to live the cliché'd college life-style. They refuse to wait to change the world. They rise as one to make a huge impact in the lives of the 17 million children our CMN Hospitals serve.
If you've been to a Dance Marathon this year, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It is a success measured not by increments, but by great strides. It is cherishing the value of a child's day being brightened and backing up that small miracle with the life-saving funds our hospitals so desperately need.
It is pure passion, unrestrained, that our country's next generation has tapped into with Dance Marathon. And it is that pure passion — combined with talent, drive, and dedication — that will carry Children's Miracle Network Hospitals to new heights.
DePaul, along with Auburn University and the University of Northern Iowa, may have been in their first year- but they've already embraced the passion that fuels our programs nationwide. Their records may or may not hold up for very long, but their success represents the success behind Dance Marathon. It is the success that can only be achieved through pure passion.
Watching these records be broken, you'll be witness to a new generation falling in love with, and forever championing the cause we all hold so dear. You'll see what pure passion looks like, and why it is that same passion that can truly change the world. Good luck keeping a dry eye: