More than 1,000 Cardinals helped raise just over $677,000 for Riley Hospital for Children during the 10th-annual Ball State University Dance Marathon.
The 13.1-hour event started at 1 p.m. Saturday, where dancers were encouraged to stay on their feet for the entire time.
Although dancers were striving to raise $765,000 — a jump from last year's goal of $550,000 — this year's total was still the highest ever and more than $67,000 higher than in 2016.
"We had a really ambitious goal with the 765 and that was to engage in our Muncie community and we knew that it was a big goal but with Dance Marathon you always shoot for the stars," said BSUDM President Alyssa Van Fossen. "I think what is the most important is that we gave 100 percent and the Riley kids were our No. 1 focus."
Van Fossen has been involved in Dance Marathon since her freshman year and now, as a senior about to graduate, she said the experiences she has had with the kids from Riley are ones she will never forget.
"I've realized that life is so valuable and these Riley kids are the heroes of our lives," she said.
Even though they didn't meet the goal, BSUDM "created history," Van Fossen said.
"I was slightly disappointed that we didn't make it, but I'm still extremely proud of the result because we tried our hardest and every penny still counts," said Jenny Carter, a senior marketing major. "That money is still going to help someone who needs it."
The day was filled with multiple performances and activities, including a talent show and line dance sessions. BSUDM members also had the opportunity to meet with children from Riley Hospital for Children whose stories sparked "inspiration and hope," dancers in attendance said.
The audience heard from 11 patients, former patients and family members at Riley Children’s Hospital about their experiences at the hospital.
“Riley talks” included: the Cruz Family, Allen Family, Tamosaitis Family, Blackwell Family, Ogle Family, Hatton Family, Deputy Family and DJ.
All spoke with the same underlying message: how the hospital has greatly impacted and changed their lives.
Five-year-old Bette Blackwell, a Riley kid, was inspired by her sister to cut and donate inches of her hair at the event. It was her second Dance Marathon.
“I get to see all my buddies and do a lot of the events,” Blackwell said.
Zach Brown, a Ball State alumnus, joined 30 other Dance Marathon alumni at the event and said things "went well," adding that he felt energized throughout the night.
"You have to step back from it a little bit because you're so involved with it in college and [now] you have this new wave of people who are champions for Riley Hospital," Brown said. "You just want to be back and encourage them in anyway you can."
Emma Nossem, a junior who danced for two friends she lost to cystic fibrosis, said she was also happy with how the event turned out.
"Most of the teams met their Riley kid which is really nice," Nossem said. "We gave our Riley kid a gift and sang and that was really fun."
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Nossem said she was feeling excellent and "even better than when [she] walked in," toward the end of the event. Her goal was to raise $800, which she was hoping to reach before the end of the night.
"Who knows, maybe I will get to $1,000. I would like to keep moving it up," Nossem said.
Carter said she began to get tired as the night progressed, but she did her best to keep moving and staying active.
The morale dance, Carter said, was what she looked forward to the most.
"The morale dance is always my favorite so I always get really hype when that comes on," Carter said.
Carter also said that she has enjoyed being able to hear the Riley Kids' stories of what they go through.
Allison Ulitzsch, a freshman biology major, said she logged longer hours than most of the participants because of her role as a committee member.
“We were here since 9:45 a.m. because we are committee
members and we have to stay to help clean up, so it’s a really long
day," Ultizsch said.
She chose to participate in the marathon in support of her
sister, who was sick when she was born.
“I am from Ohio, so we don’t have Riley Hospital, but my
sister was born when I was about 8 and she was really sick," Ultizsch said.
Luckily, her younger sister was able to get help through the
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
"She is OK now, thank goodness,” Ulitzsch said. “I just
remember that really helpless feeling and I wanted to make sure families didn’t
feel that way.”
Patrick Calvert, Gabbi Mitchell and Maggie Stolfa contributed to this story.