Dance the Night Away

JMU, UVA Dance Marathons Inspire Philanthropy, Celebrate Families

A lot can be done in 12 hours—including dancing non-stop to support patients and families at UVA Children’s Hospital.

And that’s just what students from James Madison University and the University of Virginia did. Earlier this year, JMU celebrated its 5th “Madithon,” and UVA celebrated its 20th “HooThon.” Collectively, the two dance marathons have raised almost $1.5 million for UVA Children’s Hospital over the past 20 years.

Both events are part of the national Miracle Network Dance Marathon fundraising campaign to support Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals, which has raised more than $200 million for patients and families across North America. UVA Children’s Hospital is the regional CMN hospital for both JMU and UVA, and the two universities have the largest collegiate dance marathons in Virginia.

JMU raised just over $115,000 at the 2018 Madithon, which is organized and hosted by the Gamma Theta Chapter of Phi Mu. Proceeds support various initiatives, including pediatric research and urgent patient and family needs. In 2017, Madithon broke a state record after it became the first dance marathon in Virginia to raise six figures.

“Phi Mu is excited and proud to support UVA Children’s Hospital through Madithon,” says Mel Smith George, JMU senior and 2018 Madithon chair. “It’s a great event for our sorority, the Miracle families, and the entire JMU community. Getting to know the kids is by far the best part— they’re the life of the party!”

Meanwhile, UVA has raised more than $1 million during the 20 years of its HooThon, most of which help fund pediatric cancer programs. Organized and run by UVA students every year, the 2018 HooThon was cochaired by fourth-year students Sabin Jackson and Joy Hart.

“I was born with a very sick twin brother who didn’t make it, so my parents brought me to the Dance Marathon every year and have always actively supported the Children’s Hospital,” says Jackson. “The cause has been near and dear to me my entire life. The event is the culmination of a year of hard work and a fun reminder of the difference we are making.”

Families who have received care at UVA Children’s Hospital attend both dance marathons to share their stories and thank students for their efforts.

“The biggest highlight for me every year is getting to know the kids and their families,” notes Jackson.

“Children shouldn’t have to worry about anything except being fun-loving, adventurous kids,” says Hart. “I was, and still am, motivated by the ability to help make a difference through fundraising. When I was a second-year, the marathon raised over $70,000, and I cried as soon as we revealed the total. It was my first year on exec and my first year really, deeply a part of something bigger than myself. To give all that money to the UVA Children’s Hospital and know that it made a difference was uplifting and motivating.”