For the 10th year running, students are holding the Seattle University Dance Marathon to benefit Seattle Children’s hospital. This year they hope to cross the half-million-dollar mark.
Bring extra shoes. And slippers.
Chew gum. Drink coffee.
And never forget: It’s for the kids.
Want to know how to survive a dance marathon? Ask the Seattle University students who, for the last 10 years, have held an annual sweat-fest to benefit the Uncompensated Care Fund at Seattle Children’s hospital and its research initiative Strong Against Cancer.
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This year, the 16-hour Seattle University Dance Marathon hopes to attract 400 dancers. It is already one of the largest dance marathons on the West Coast and has raised nearly $500,000 since it started.
The nonprofit is ranked 23rd in the more than 400 guilds at Seattle Children’s.
No small thing for a group of college students.
“We’re up there with Costco!” said Desi Caswell, the director of the Seattle University Dance Marathon nonprofit. “We’re also up against the University of Washington, Central Washington University, Gonzaga.
“For a small school like us, it’s really incredible.”
The dance marathon isn’t until Feb. 18. But on Jan. 25, the students will try to raise $25,000 in 24 hours in all-day fundraising, starting with an appearance on KISS-FM and KING 5 TV. The goal is to raise $125,000 by Feb. 18 in honor of Seattle University’s 125th anniversary.
A private donor has agreed to donate $25,000 if the students raise that amount on Jan. 25. (Donors can text the word “STRONG” to 501501 to donate $10.)
The dance marathon, they hope, will kick them up to the half-million mark.
I reached out to Caswell because I needed something good. I needed to hear about people doing something — taking action — to cut through the cynicism that seems to have swallowed the country whole. Russians. Senate hearings. Fake news.
We’re all at odds, firing back and shutting each other down. Or just shutting down altogether.
Caswell, a junior studying cultural anthropology and humanities, feels the same way. She also sees the event as a way to shed new light on her schoolmates.
“I feel like college students have the reputation not for making money, but only spending money,” Caswell said. “It’s great to see how the students react to the totals at the end of the marathon. When they see the impact they have had on kids’ lives.”
When students sign up, each gets his or her own fundraising page. They post on social media and hit family and friends up for all kinds of support.
“Eighty-five percent of the money comes from student fundraising,” Caswell said.
Once they raise the money, they still have to dance from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.
The event has a party atmosphere, with donated food, family, friends, staffers and alumni pitching in. They even have “Morale Captains” to help students through the entire event, from raising money to choreographing and leading a warm-up “Morale dance” to keeping people on their feet through the wee hours.
“No breaks,” Caswell said. “We dance the entire time. It’s a very active decision we do with our whole bodies and our whole minds.”
They stand at cocktail tables to eat, and are allowed to use the bathroom if they need. (Yes, Caswell said, people have fallen asleep on the toilet.)
Jay Bee, a student who has danced at the event before, has his own strategy.
“Whenever we feel like falling over,” he said, “you look to the right, look to the left and remember that we always have each other to lean on.”
When the event ends at 2 a.m. — and the total raised is shown, “We cry,” Caswell said.
“Then we sit. And we stretch,” she said. “And maybe cry some more.”
The songs hang with you, Caswell said. You hear them, dance to them, and remember.
“ ‘Walk the Moon’ was one of the songs last year,” she said. “Every time I hear it on the radio, I am immediately brought back to the dance marathon. When you hear them, you think back and reflect on the impact we made.
“It’s something bigger than us.”