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For the kids: USC Dance Marathon raises $703,289

There are countless memories to take away from a day when miracles happened. The University of South Carolina Dance Marathon’s 2017 Main Event lasted for 14 hours and the student organization shattered its previous fundraising record, bringing in $703,289 for the kids at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital. The day offered more great moments than can be shared here, but the one many will remember most in years to come was a sound.

Midnight approached on Feb. 27 with around 1,400 people, the largest group in USCDM history, gathered in the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center. The group’s leadership team had worked all year for this day, through smaller fundraisers, recruiting participants, hosting events for hospital patients past and present known as Miracle Kids, and enough other tasks to make an outsider forget that everyone in the organization is a college student. Everyone in the organization is a volunteer. Midnight approached, and 1,400 people gathered in front of a stage to find out just how successful their efforts had been.

The sudden silence of a large group, especially at the end of a day filled with music and shouts and chants and cheers, is a powerful thing. The student leaders took the stage, where cards were placed face down for the reveal. Even most of those on stage did not know what was coming. The front row lifted cards spelling out “For the Kids,” a reminder of the reason for the work, and of where every penny raised would go. The message also served as a reminder that anything raised would be a success. Still, every single person in the room wanted the same thing: to hit the goal of $700,000 set last fall after the group raised a record $527,810 in 2016.

The silence continued with all eyes on the second row of leaders. Erin Hinners lifted the first card, the dollar symbol. The crowd read the numbers aloud as they were raised, starting from the right, revealing 289. The remaining three numbers were lifted almost simultaneously. A three. A zero. Then the sound came. A collective scream of joy and triumph and emotion to match any ever heard at a sporting event. A burst of noise that will live on in the minds of all who heard it. An outburst prompted by the card in the hands of Dance Marathon President Gabi Santos.

It was the sound of a miracle happening. The card, you see, bore the number seven. What followed was chaos: a jumble of tears and hugs and laughter, then a last performance of the 2017 line dance and time to reflect on a monumental success and how the money will be used.

The reveal and the final line dance (video by Maddie Carff)

“Because of the funds we raised we will give $500,000 to Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital to fully fund the Child Life Program and $203,289 to PHCH to begin building the USC Dance Marathon playground, which is a huge step for our program,” said Dance Marathon Vice President of Public Relations Kaity Lynch. “We can’t wait to see just how fast we can build this playground.”

USC’s success was part of the biggest fundraising weekend in Dance Marathon history nationwide, as students on other campuses combined with the Gamecocks to provide $4,670,940 for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.

More than 40 seniors will graduate from this year’s Dance Marathon group, but no one ever fully leaves the cause behind. Alumni contributed more than $10,000 this year, and those leaving for other places will carry the DM message and share with those who may not have heard: for love, for hope, and always, always for the kids.

More information about USCDM and Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital is available online.

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