Rutgers students raise $912,143.47 over Dance Marathon weekend
More than 2,000 families have been assisted by the Rutgers University Dance Marathon over the last 18 years, raising nearly $6 million over the course of the nearly two-decade long tradition, culminating with $912,143.47 raised in the 2016 Rutgers University Dance Marathon.
Thirty-six team captains organized more than 300 volunteers over the weekend to help the 300 families in the RU4Kids program as part of the Embrace Kids Foundation to raise funds for the families of children afflicted with different cancers and blood-related disorders.
“It was truly an exceptional experience — Dance Marathon is very significant to me and this year it was transformative,” said Parth Shingala, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. “DM doesn’t just represent the weekend’s worth of effort, it transcends the event — it shows the essence of what Rutgers is.”
The full sum of the money raised goes toward the Embrace Kids Foundation, said Tatiana Blackman, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. Blackman was the director of communications for this year’s event, and began working on it in May 2015.
The funds go toward the foundation’s operating budget, which is used to help families of children with cancers and blood disorders, organize parties for the patients, hire tutors to ensure the kids do not fall behind in school and otherwise create a “sense of normalcy,” she said.
“As we raise more funds we can help (the) Embrace Kids Foundation increase their overall mission fulfillment rate,” she said.
This year, Dance Marathon saw the single greatest year-to-year leap in Rutgers Dance Marathon history, raising more than $220,000 greater than last year.
Students have spent the last 11 months preparing for this year’s weekend, Blackman said. Funding for the different aspects of the program came from the Rutgers University Student Assembly allocations committee, concessions sold at athletic events, sponsors, the Division of Academic Engagement and Programming and from students, who paid a $25 or $35 registration fee.
One of the most difficult aspects for this year’s event was changing the format into its new two 12-hour sessions, she said.
“We changed the setup of the marathon completely this year, and honestly I think we were able to capture the same essence in both sessions,” she said. “That was my biggest fear going into marathon weekend, that people would think that wasn’t the case, and I believe we showed them that although we changed the setup the marathon remained the same.”
The efforts were recognized by Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Felicia McGinty, who took the stage near the end of the second session.
“You all have worked tirelessly,” she said. “On behalf of the University, I can say that we stand in awe of you and of your dedication in your drive to share.”
The attendees included more than 150 students and alumni who have been involved for at least three years.
The alumni alone raised $80,967 for this year’s event.
“I’m still processing it all,” Blackman said. “I think the overall feeling is just total happiness. Family Hour is by far my favorite part every single year. Seeing the dancers interact with the kids and really connect to who the money is being raised for is an amazing sight."
Students will continue raising money and awareness, Shingala said. His fraternity, Chi Psi, has raised the largest amount of money for the marathon for the last 13 years. They also sponsored a child, Taylor Barta, over the past several years.
Barta died on March 20, less than two weeks before Dance Marathon, just over two years after his diagnosis of stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how they keep raising,” Shingala said. “We’re honoring the memory of Taylor. He was the sweetest, smartest child, and we want to make sure no other kid dies from cancers and blood disorders.”
This article is part of our 2016 Rutgers University Dance Marathon coverage. Click here for a full list of stories.
Nikhilesh De is a School of Engineering junior. He is the news editor for The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @nikhileshde for more.