Pitt Dance Marathon prepares for another successful event to support UPMC Children’s Hospital


TPN File Photo

Participants cheer at Pitt Dance Marathon in 2018.

By Madison Dean, Staff Writer

For Emma Kappler, the president of Pitt Dance Marathon, participating in the University’s largest student-run philanthropy event means forging connections with students, miracle families and advisers who all support an incredible cause. 

“To see people join this organization and grow to love it and make friends, lifelong friends, it’s just really an amazing thing,” Kappler, a senior political science and law, criminal justice and society double major, said. “It’s really inspiring because you don’t get to see that in a lot of student organizations.” 

PDM is a student organization that works yearlong to fundraise for the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh through campus-wide events and a 12-hour dance marathon. Founded in 2005, PDM has raised more than $1 million for UPMC Children’s and local charities by partnering with the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital

This year’s PDM will take place on March 25 from noon to midnight at the Cost Sports Center. Kappler said students and teams can register to dance for either six or 12 hour shifts. At the top of every hour, a morale team performs a dance to energize the crowd. Standing and dancing for an entire shift is a way for these teams to “stand in solidarity with the kids at the hospital,” according to Kappler. 

Participants can register for the event as an individual or as a team. In past years, Greek life, student organizations and even residence halls have created teams. Different teams are assigned to a color team and paired with other groups to compete in “color wars.” 

“It’s just a way to get competitive and have fun during the event because you can try to win some color war points, and then [for] the winner, there’s always some sort of incentive,” Kappler said. “We try to make it so that nobody, even if they’re registered as an individual, they don’t feel left out or anything like that.” 

Delaney Wright, director of recruitment, said 43 teams have registered for PDM so far. Wright said although there are fewer teams this year because of Greek Week pairings, there are more people per team. She recruits teams by sharing PDM’s mission and children’s stories from the hospital with other clubs and organizations. 

“They’re just children, which I think is good to remember,” Wright, a senior environmental studies and political science double major, said. “I try to focus on that aspect when I’m presenting to different organizations.” 

Bre Smith, director of programming, said two of PDM’s biggest events are the talent show and fashion show, which support the miracle kids. Miracle kids are children who have spent time in Children’s Miracle Network hospitals across the country, according to Smith. 

“Before the event, the miracle kids go on a shopping spree to show off their outfits and let their personalities shine on stage,” Smith, a junior psychology major and pre-physician assistant, said. “They walk in rounds with some of our top fundraisers, members of Greek life and our very own staff.” 

Fundraising is the biggest component of PDM. Individuals must raise $100 to dance for six hours and $150 for twelve. Kappler said the organization provides fundraising resources such as bingo board events, Facebook fundraisers and text templates to help participants reach their goal. 

“Most of our fundraising comes from peer to peer fundraising,” Kappler said. “So reaching out to your personal network, whether it’s family members, friends, even professors, letting them know what you’re doing, what you’re fundraising for, and asking if they’d be able to make a donation.” 

Kappler said PDM is important to students because everyone is affected by the organization’s cause, whether they were treated at Children’s or know someone who was treated there.

“It’s something that infiltrates the lives of every single person and for Pitt to have such an incredible Children’s Hospital in their own backyard, and being able to use their sense of community to help it, it is such an awesome opportunity,” Kappler said. 

PDM is special to Wright because she was treated at Children’s Hospital when she was younger. She feels a special connection to the cause and takes pride in her involvement with an organization that makes a difference for the lives of children and families in the community. 

“Everyone’s just so nice and it does become like a family, because we’re all fighting for the same cause,” Wright said. “And just seeing so many students get so passionate about the children is what keeps me there. I could talk about it forever.” 

Smith also experienced supporting a close friend who spent time at a children’s hospital and said that miracle families are appreciative of the work and fundraising efforts that PDM provides. 

“Any amount of money that you can donate helps make such a difference in these kids’ lives,” Smith said. “Whether signing up as a participant or becoming a staff member next year, the effort doesn’t go unnoticed.”