Pitt dancers marathon for kids

Students dance to techno music during the final hour of Saturday’s Pitt Dance Marathon. (Photo by Thomas Yang | Visual Editor)

Students in the Cost Sports Center spent most of Saturday sweating — but not from running laps or drills.

Instead, about 1,450 people danced to top-40 hits over a period of 16 hours under neon lights.

These people were participants in the Pitt Dance Marathon, one of several fundraising events held during Greek Week. This year, the event started Saturday at 8 a.m. and lasted until midnight. Dozens of teams participating in the marathon collected funds from friends and family members through email and letter campaigns as well as donor drives. Money raised through the event supported the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, an organization that raises money for children’s hospitals.

Alexis Cole, the PDM fundraising director, said the event drew plenty of people from both inside and outside of Greek life. She has participated in PDM in the past and enjoyed that she was helping children dealing with eating disorders, genetic diseases and birth defects. She said staying on her feet for 16 hours — both as a dancer and as an organizer — was well worth it.

“I’ve always been super fortunate to have had a childhood free of hospitals and medical treatments growing up, and I’ve come to know children who weren’t that fortunate, who struggled with different illnesses,” Cole, a senior environmental studies major, said.

At the start of the event, all the participants created a runway, standing on opposite sides of the field, as patients of the Children’s Hospital ran through the crowd, smiling while everyone cheered and high-fived them. The Imagination Project — a group of Pitt students who visit hospitals dressed as superheroes and princesses — played with children present after the dancing started.

The constantly changing lights and upbeat music kept students awake and ready to dance for as long as they were able. Students who weren’t dancing played cornhole, soccer or hung around waiting for the next shift of dancing to start.

Participants cheer at Saturday’s Pitt Dance Marathon. (Photo by Thomas Yang | Visual Editor)

People danced in two different shifts, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then from 4 p.m. to midnight. Junior economics major Eric Goldhorn, one of the directors of the marathon, put in a full day at the event despite not dancing. As an organizer, he worked at the event from 6:30 in the morning until the end of the night.

Caitlin Steve, a sophomore majoring in environmental studies and a member of the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority, said she appreciated being able to participate in the marathon since she believes making an impact on the lives of young children is something everyone should try to do.

“It’s nice to look around and see everyone have such a great time while contributing to such a great cause,” Steve said.

PDM arranged three different options — dancer, dreamer and fund-raiser — allowing people to dance based on their availability and helping to ensure any student could participate. Dancers danced for the entire 16 hours, while dreamers danced for eight and fund-raisers fewer than eight.

Ayesha Godiwala, a junior majoring in biology and another member of the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority, said that leading up the event, she was reminded why they chose to participate in this event.

“Our sorority sisters love to come out and support this event, and seeing everyone who wants to be here to make a difference is incredible,” Godiwala said.

At the end of the event, participants gathered around the stage, sweaty and tired from hours of jamming to pop and classic rock. When the executive members of PDM announced the event raised a total of $231,083.26 — close to last year’s amount of $250,187.73 — the crowd erupted into cheers. Godiwala was thrilled by the news.

“Just knowing that we’ve raised enough money to help a couple of kids is truly incredible,” Godiwala said.

Jemy Varghese, a first-year studying biological sciences, was happy to participate in PDM this year. She hoped the effort students put into the event would bring children with serious illnesses a brighter future.

“It was amazing that so many students could come together to help another child fight through their obstacle so they too could one day get to college,” Varghese said.

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