On Saturday, the William Pitt Union transformed from a casual study and meeting space into a dance party with dubstep pumping and disco balls spinning.
The 11th annual Pitt Dance Marathon, a 16-hour dance-a-thon that raises money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, began at 8 a.m. and stretched until midnight, filling the Union’s ground and main floors with students. After shortening the event from 24 hours to 16 hours and moving it from the Cost Center to the Union for the first time, PDM raised $200,016.11 this year — $49,948.12 more than last year.
PDM participants volunteered as dancers, who stayed and boogied for the entire event; dreamers, who stayed for eight-hour shifts; or moralers, who stayed for the entire event and led hourly spirit dances to bring everyone together and increase morale. Dancers were each required to raise $150 in order to participate in the event, whereas dreamers and moralers could raise money if they wished but were not required to do so.
Each of the event’s teams had about 20 dancers and one captain. Students could sign up individually and have PDM place them on a team with other individuals, or they could create a team with their sororities, fraternities or student groups.
Dancers in T-shirts matching their teams’ colors danced and played with their sponsorees — children who are or were once patients at CMNH — and their families.
Dwight McTizic, the vice president this year and president of next year’s PDM, credited the new location with this year’s boost in non-Greek involvement.
As the culminating event for Greek Week, PDM is often perceived as a Greek-only event, according to McTizic. He said the PDM board — 55 students split into panels that meet weekly — has worked hard throughout the year to change that image and get more people involved.
“Before, the board was all Greek, and now it’s about half, which encourages more participation,” McTizic said. “Also, it’s on lower campus now, so people are more inclined to come.”
While about 570 people participated last year, PDM President Victoria Bianco estimated there were more than 1,000 participants this year.
McTizic said the event is a way to give back to those that helped him when he was sick as a child.
“I spent a lot of time in a children’s hospital back home when I was about 8 or 9,” McTizic said. “This is my way of saying ‘thank you’ to those who kept that hospital in Chicago so well-funded and operated.”
The board has hosted monthly fundraising events, such as March’s children’s fashion show at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, since the start of the fall semester to prepare for this year’s PDM.
PDM volunteers arrived at 6 a.m. to set up various activities throughout the Union, putting Kan Jam in front of SubConnection on the lower floor, tutu-making on the main floor and a karaoke contest in the ballroom.
In the “dare auction” set up in the hallway of the Union’s main floor, participants bid on PDM volunteers, reserving the right to dare that person to do something if they won the auction.
Jake Fishbein, PDM vice president of donations, gave a former CMNH patient the chance to do his makeup however they pleased as part of the dare auction.
“My face was essentially painted with lipstick,” Fishbein said. “But when you hear from patients and former patients about how much Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals has done for them, it makes you want to do it again.”
While the dancers rested between boogies and jives, a cappella group Songbirds and dance groups Pitt Salsa Club and Pitt Dance Ensemble performed on the main stage in the ballroom.
Though McTizic said Greek life is no longer the focus of PDM, fraternities and sororities are still heavily involved in the event. Sorority Delta Delta Delta raised more than $15,000 through a letter-writing campaign that began this past fall.
Kelly Martin, captain of Delta Delta Delta’s PDM team, happily snapped pictures with the kids the team sponsored — a boy who suffers a rare form of leukemia and his brother.
“To have a family personally thanking you and telling you you made a difference is incredible,” Martin said.
Gina Marcocci, a representative from CMNH, stood on the stage as midnight approached and thanked the students who were still standing and dancing after 16 hours.
In true Pitt fashion, the PDM board and the moralers linked arms and led all of the participants and volunteers in singing “Sweet Caroline” as the night ended.
“It’s very rare that our kiddos shed a tear when they leave an event,” Marcocci said. “But that happened today. They had so much fun.”
George Tawfik, a brother of Sigma Alpha Mu, put his arms around his brothers, singing and reflecting on the day of dancing.
“We’re very privileged here in college,” Tawfik said. “Taking a day out is the least I can do.”