To prepare for USC’s Dance Marathon this year, freshmen Miller Hane, Carli Smolen and Claire Thompson tried different things.
Smolen drank lots of water. Thompson loaded up on sweet tea. And Hane?
Hane said he didn’t do “anything special” to prepare. He didn’t have to. The business major from Baton Rouge, La., seemed about to burst with enthusiasm Friday night.
“Oh my gosh, I have more energy than I can handle right now,” he said.
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The three friends were part of a larger group from USC’s student government that turned out for the annual fundraiser held at the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center on Friday and Saturday.
In fact, some 500 dancers – with the help of 125 volunteers and 87 members on Dance Marathon’s executive team or “morale team” – literally danced the night away. They also took part in games and contests and heard from the families whose children have been helped by Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital – the cause benefiting from event.
Since 1999, Dance Marathon has been raising money for the hospital in the form of this 24-hour “party with a purpose.” Billed as the largest student-led philanthropic event in the Palmetto State, the organization passed the $1 million fundraising mark last year, having raised $1.1 million since its inception.
Todd Schelling, whose two children, Kate and David, were both treated at the hospital on different occasions, said the organization has played a major role in their lives.
“It would have been meaningful to us had we just had one kid treated there,” Schelling said. “But the hospital, Dance Marathon and Palmetto Health Foundation are a real part of our lives now.”
The Schellings were at the event Saturday – their fourth since David was diagnosed with Kawasaki’s disease, in 2005, and Kate was found to have a birthmark-like lesion on her brain, in 2010. The lesion was thought to be connected with seizures the five-year-old was having but through treatment at Children’s Hospital, Kate’s prognosis is now better.
In the meantime, Schelling said he remains impressed with the students who continue to turn out in droves to participate in the all nighter year in and year out.
“It’s really awesome,” he said. “They’re doing something really selfless.”
That thought might have been what was keeping the three freshmen, still on their feet by 1 p.m. Saturday, going.
Going into the marathon Friday night, the trio seemed ready to take on the world. But by 1 p.m. Saturday, it was a bit of a different story.
“My back hurts, my feet hurt, my hamstrings hurt,” said Thompson laughing. “Everything hurts. But if you keep moving it’s not so bad.”
Gone were the fresh faces and rested good looks, but the enthusiasm and big smiles worn by all three the day before were still there.
“Whenever I don’t think I have anything left, I think, ‘FTK, FTK,’” Hane said. The phrase, which stands for ‘For the Kids’ was something the crowd shouted throughout the day.
As word spread Saturday afternoon that the three freshmen had not sat down since the event began, it became evident to many the trio had taken their commitment to stay on their feet until the marathon’s end to heart.
“If the kids can go through years of what they go through, then I can stay on my feet for 24 hours,” Smolen said.