The Ohio Union is one of the central hubs of campus. Housing numerous student organizations, eateries and meeting spaces, it usually sees many students coming in and out of its decorated doors every day. This Friday and Saturday, however, the Ohio Union experienced a colorfully clothed, high-spirited crowd that had the energy to raise $1,338,872.37 by dancing the night away at BuckeyeThon, an annual dance marathon.
Last year the goal was to raise $1 million, and the total ended up at $1,231,290.11. This year the focus was trying to set goals on the individual level. The campaign centered on the theme of “Every Kid Deserves to be a Buckeye” in hopes of drawing a connection between dancers and the children they are helping, said Courtney Thomson, the director of marketing and communications for BuckeyeThon and a third-year in psychology, in an email.
About 5,000 students participated last year, and as of Friday, the total number of participants for this year was around 4,800.
BuckeyeThon’s goal is to raise money, awareness and support for children who are treated in the Hematology, Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant Department at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Events throughout the year are hosted to raise money, with the grand finale being the dance marathon. One hundred percent of funds raised are donated to the department in hopes of helping cover treatments that parents are unable to afford. In total, more than $3.7 million has been raised in the last 14 years. BuckeyeThon is also the largest dance marathon in the country, according to its website.
Students who wanted to participate as dancers were instructed to raise $250. BuckeyeThon helps students reach their total goals by providing them with ways to fundraise, as well as a profile page which they can post to social media asking for donations. Funds are also raised by outside sponsors and volunteers, as well as “virtual dancers,” who fundraise but are unable to attend the event itself, according to the BuckeyeThon website.
The whole event lasted 24 hours but was split into two 12-hour shifts. Students could choose to participate from 8 p.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Saturday or 11 a.m. Saturday to 11 p.m. At 11 p.m., the total amount raised was revealed in a celebration ceremony.
Each shift was packed with activities, including photo booths, games, performances and continual dancing. Each shift, dancers were able to meet with some of the children and families from Nationwide to see the impact their funds have firsthand.
Sunni Whitmore, a second-year in psychology and human development and family science, said she participated in BuckeyeThon last year and had a “wonderful experience.”
“I believe, this year, I learned a lot more about the cause than I initially thought I would,” she said. “I have had friends growing up who have struggled with cancer and got through this experience, and I just wanted to be as supportive as I could. It’s such a wonderful cause, and it’s just so fun.”
After 12 hours of dancing, keeping the morale going can be hard. Brit Stewart, a first-year in psychology, and Corey Winfield, a first-year in animal sciences, talked about how they kept the motivation going until the end of their dance shifts.
“My favorite part was definitely Rave Hour. It was awesome, just dancing with everyone and giving that last bit of energy we had at the end of the 12-hour shift,” Stewart said. “Just giving it all we had. It was awesome.”
Winfield agreed and said the shared sense of camaraderie is what helped her keep the energy going until the end.
“At the end we sang Carmen together and that (was) a ton of fun,” Winfield said. “It was the last thing, but we all had that final burst of energy, and it was really awesome.”
As the dancing started to wind down Saturday night, Javaune Adams-Gaston, the vice president for the Office of Student Life, spoke during the closing ceremony before the total amount raised was revealed.
“You have demonstrated that you care greatly about being a world transformer. That you care greatly about the kids and about the cure. And we so appreciate that you would give up your time and your talents and your treasure to make a difference,” she said.
Slowly, the signs with the amount of money raised were held up. The crowd went wild with the reveal of the total raised.
The night closed with the Ohio Union being filled with the familiar tune of dancers, donors and families alike singing “Carmen Ohio.”
Dr. Steve Allen, the CEO of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, congratulated the efforts of everyone involved.
“You will remember this day for the rest of your lives,” he said.