A day filled with emotion and entertainment concluded with hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for the children at Riley Children's Hospital.
The Ball State Dance Marathon (BSUDM) raised $615,287.24 by Sunday their annual fundraising event for the children's hospital being held at Ball State’s Field Sports Building 1 p.m. to 2 a.m., Feb. 16-17.
Money raised in the 13.1 hours that the marathon is held will fund two different areas of the hospital this year: the Palliative Care Team which specializes medical care to children with serious illnesses and the Magic Castle Cart, a fleet of two carts with gifts, toys and puzzles for children, according to BSUDM’s website.
The event started with students from BSUDM’s Morale Committee performing a dance number to hype up the rest of the dancers followed by a welcome ceremony for the children of the hospital.
Once the children, their families and the BSUDM student volunteers gathered on the stage, Marizel Justice, executive director of the Keep On Shining Fund delivered her kickoff talk.
“Little does [cancer] know that little kids can fight hard,” Marizel said, reading a letter her daughter Maddy Justice wrote. Maddy, 15, who was a patient at the children’s hospital, died Nov. 29, 2013, after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia at 13, according to Keep On Shining Fund’s website.
Maddy went through a lot due to her cancer - 11 rounds of chemo, two bone marrow transplants, radiation and countless number of procedures, Marizel said.
“She had this attitude, what we say, keep on shining,” Marizel said. “She would say, ‘Everyday I have a choice.’ For her she chose to be positive about it.”
According to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation’s website, 4 percent of federal government cancer research funding goes to study pediatric cancer.
Marizel said majority of the funding for pediatric cancer research comes from families like hers and that dance marathons help spread awareness about the issue.
“[Dance marathons] get young kids involved in something philanthropic which is great,” Marizel said. “You want young kids to realize that - to do something that is beneficial to everyone or to help others who really can’t do it themselves.”
“I just get a kick out of coming here because it’s not about Ball State, it’s not about the students here,” Tim Justice, Maddy’s father said. “They’re doing it for the kids. They truly feel that and express that.”
Dominick and Dadrian Landreth from Riley Children’s Hospital with a neuromuscular disease, were two children part of the welcome ceremony.
“[BSUDM] is something that the boys look forward to,” said Kristen Landreth, Dominick’s and Dadrian’s mother and special education teacher at Yorktown Community Schools. “It’s just nice to see the community and see how they are supportive of kiddos with medical needs.”
With chants of “For the Kids” repeatedly at regular intervals, the participants got through the marathon which featured events like playing Mario Kart, the Riley Kids talent show, performances by Ball State groups and a Lip Sync Battle, apart from dancing and listening to speakers.
Emily Simcox, a member of the Morale Committee, and sophomore biology and pre-med major, said she is most excited “to see the kids and interact with them and make them feel better.”
The event also had activity booths with games like a dare wall, a Fitbit challenge and egg roulette, all for helping out with fundraising. Also at the event was a Jail game where Riley kids could put people in jail costing them $5 to get out or a friend could put another one in for a price they had to match.
Towards the latter end of the day filled with several events for students was a series of tug and war games. Participants competed in several games based on categories like team color, school standing, boys versus girls and hair color.
One of the games also featured Trey Moses, Ball State men's basketball forward/center and senior child development major, playing in a yellow tutu.
"The crazy thing about it was that I made the game winning shot," said Moses who had just returned from a basketball game. "So, to go from that straight to here, it's just like two of the best things that could happen in one day."
Moses said he has been participating in BSUDM since his sophomore year.
"They just do so much for children and this is my favorite event that Ball State has," Moses said. "This has been so life changing for me."
Sixteen-year-old Riley Lesh, a Riley kid who has been involved in the dance marathon for 10 years and attended 255 dance marathons was one of the speakers to take the stage and speak to those in attendance.
Lesh said she wanted to convince people to raise money, stay on their feet, join a dance marathon committee or ask a Riley kid to go to the dance with them.
"After growing up in dance marathon I just want to inspire people," Lesh said. "I want you to come up to me at the end of the marathon and say because of you I didn't give up."
Also at the event was Ali Tschuor, the 2019 winner of Miss Spirit of Indiana and former Riley kid. Tschuor, who was born severely deaf, said if it wasn't for Riley Children's Hospital she wouldn't be the successful person she is today.
"I want to come here to show my support and raise awareness and raise funds for all the children who are suffering and all the people who have made it past their suffering and overcame that," Tschuor said.
Participants also took part in an event where they had their heads shaved for fundraising purposes.
"It's cold," said Brayton Adams, senior human resource management major, who just had his head shaved. "This is the first time I shaved my head for an actual purpose. It feels like a liberating experience."
Finally at 12:40 a.m. Feb. 17, the concluding ceremonies began with a final speech by master of ceremonies Tyler Hostetler.
"You guys are super super important," Hostetler said while sharing a personal story. "If you guys don't think what you're doing is life changing, you're so wrong."
Ball State alumna Abby Clifton then hosted the pinning ceremony where senior BSUDM participants were honored. Hannah Crane was awarded the 2019 Ryan White award given annually to a BSUDM executive council member.
This was followed by a dance performance by the Outlet Hip Hop Troupe and the final line dance Morale Committee members until DJ Jacob Struble from Sight & Sound concluded with about an hour of music.
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