Miracles will happen in Columbia March 3, and lives will be forever changed for the better. More than 2,000 students, joined by the kids who are the reason for it all, will stand and dance for 14 hours at the 20th annual University of South Carolina Dance Marathon Main Event. Their goal is to raise $1,000,000 for Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital. Their leadership team has worked tirelessly for a year leading up to the moment when the total will be revealed at midnight. Why does it mean so much? Midlands Anchor will share a series of stories with you as the countdown continues in hopes of explaining, and of encouraging you to help the cause by donating. This is the fourth story in the series. Click here for the others. For love, for hope, and always for the kids.
The focus will be mostly on the past and present Saturday as USC Dance Marathon celebrates its 20th anniversary and makes its final push to hit the 2018 goal of $1,000,000 for the kids. However, the student organization also has an eye on the future.
Maggi Marshall knows firsthand how important high school Dance Marathon groups, affectionately known as mini marathons or simply minis, can be. She started one at her own high school in Florida, and as a USC Dance Marathon leader, she works ceaselessly to build minis in the Columbia area.
“There’s nothing better for me than seeing high schoolers get energized and grow so much in their leadership and their service and helping their community,” Marshall said. “We assist them in any way possible to give them the foundation they need.”
Marshall, as vice president of mini marathons, coordinates that assistance. Each week throughout the school year, each participating school received a visit from two members of the USCDM committee Marshall leads.
“It takes a lot of different leadership skills, and it has helped me grow so much in my leadership style. I know in my career these skills will be so incredibly helpful,” she said. “You get to put your hands on all the different components that make up a Main Event.”
The mini marathon program is growing fast. Three new schools launched minis in 2017, and three more have launched a mini or smaller fundraisers this school year, bringing the local total to 10, all raising money for the same kids USCDM works so hard to help. Just as important, they learn why the cause means so much, and many, as Marshall did, go on to participate in Dance Marathon in college.
“It’s really awesome to see them have a home when they move off to college,” Marshall said. “Once you start in the DM family, it continues from there and gives you a place of belonging. It gives you a passion and something you can work toward and love in college too.”
When the high schools host their Main Events, USCDM leaders are there to help, and to dance alongside them.
“I think minis really re-energize our staff. That’s why I try to get as many of the staff to come as possible, just to give them the chance to get excited,” Marshall said. “We don’t get to enjoy our Main Event as much because we’re facilitating, so this is a chance to actually enjoy it.”
The high schoolers are also invited to the USCDM Main Event, to be honored for their work and to perform their own line dances on stage.
“We love for them all to come and be celebrated and enjoy an event they’re not having to facilitate,” Marshall said.
As the high schoolers join the dance Saturday, they’ll also see on a larger scale just how much the cause means to the USCDM, and how hard they work for the kids.
“I love the kids so much. I would not be doing this if I didn’t love the kids more than anything,” Marshall said. “I think once you understand the cause and you see directly, how can you not want to?”
Maggi has set a personal fundraising goal of $1,500 for the kids this year. Donate here to support her and USCDM.