In two days, miracles will happen in Columbia, 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 third story in the series. Click here for the others. For love, for hope, and always for the kids.
Haley Weston did not expect to be this year’s director of fundraising for University of South Carolina Dance Marathon, but the biology major has found herself well-suited to being the nucleus of a team.
Weston knew very little about Dance Marathon when she first signed up as a freshman. Her sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, was involved and she decided to give it a shot.
“I just raised the minimum so I could go, but when I got there I fell in love with it,” she said. “You meet the Miracle Kids and immediately connect with the cause.”
Weston has never looked back, increasing her commitment to the cause each year. This year, she is serving as fundraising director as USCDM works to break the $1,000,000 mark for the first time.
The goal is a huge increase from last year’s record-setting $703,289, but neither Weston nor anyone else on the team hesitated to take on the challenge, knowing that the money they raise will change the lives of kids at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital.
Her position is a new one, created for this year as the organization continues to grow.
“I was asked to apply for the position. It wasn’t something I expected or that I thought I was good at,” Weston said with a smile. “It’s been such a learning experience, seeing all that goes into it and having to adapt when things aren’t going well.”
Weston has also learned to manage a committee and to coordinate with numerous other leaders and committees in a Dance Marathon leadership team of almost 200.
“I’ve held other leadership positions, but Dance Marathon is unique just because of the sheer size. You just learn a lot about how you have to be deliberate with communication across multiple branches,” she says. “I had no idea just participating freshman year the extreme extent of preparation which goes into it.”
One of Weston’s goals has been to reach out to those people who are where she was as a freshman.
“A lot of it is engaging people who aren’t connected to the cause already, figuring out how to provide incentives for those people and get them engaged early on,” she said.
Dance Marathon business is all-consuming for Weston as Main Event approaches. As her DM teammate Cal Nugent puts it, “Dance Marathon is life at the moment.”
Weston believes that every hour of hard work and lost sleep is time well spent.
“I’ve been working so closely with these people and we’ve all put in an incredible amount of work,” Weston said. “I think it’s going to be that much more rewarding, and I’m excited to flip $1,000,000.”
The flip is the climax of a full year of work for the leadership team, all students and all volunteers who take on what becomes a full-time job. As midnight approaches March 3 at the end of Main Event, a 14-hour no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon, the leaders will take the stage, with cards face down in front of them.
Not even most of those leaders will know what numbers are on the cards until the moment they bend and lift them high for the crowd (the year, more than 2,000 participants, another new record) to see.
Weston and all the rest of the Dance Marathon family, past and present, hope to see seven numbers flipped this year, but no matter what the total, the year will be a success, and the kids are not the only ones whose lives will be changed for the better.
As Weston explains, the impact is felt by every participant too.
“It’s easy to become self-absorbed in college, because it’s about finding yourself, so it’s really cool to be around over 1,000 kids your age who are completely dedicated to something else.”
Haley has set a personal fundraising goal of $5,500 for the kids this year. Donate here to support her.