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Children’s of Mississippi Patient Stories, Tote Board Reveal Highlight 2024 Dance Marathon Festivities

Mississippi College volunteers reveal the final fundraising tally at last year's Dance Marathon to benefit Children's of Mississippi.
Mississippi College volunteers reveal the final fundraising tally at last year's Dance Marathon to benefit Children's of Mississippi.

At the conclusion of each year’s Dance Marathon event at Mississippi College, timpani drums sound, balloons and confetti spill down upon exhausted revelers, and the final tally of MC’s contribution to the local Children’s Miracle Network hospital is revealed.

It’s an exciting moment for those who have given their time and talents throughout the year to help sick and injured children throughout the state. But it can’t compare to what Caroline Cook considers to be the greatest part of the evening.

“We dedicate the top of every hour to a different patient from Children’s of Mississippi,” the sophomore nursing major from New Albany said. “They get to walk down the red carpet, come on stage, and give their personal testimony. The music stops and everyone focuses on them.

“Hearing their stories is truly inspiring.”

MC faculty, staff, students, and friends will have an opportunity to hear those stories while “tripping the light fantastic” for the better part of six hours during Dance Marathon 2024, scheduled from 6 p.m.-midnight on Thursday, April 11, in Anderson Hall in the B.C. Rogers Student Center.

Each academic year, men’s service clubs, women’s social tribes, and other community-minded students at MC band together to host a variety of fundraising activities to support Dance Marathon, a philanthropic initiative of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, including Children’s of Mississippi in Jackson.

On-campus events throughout the year have included traditional bake sales, Instagram challenges, popup thrift stores, bead-making parties, letter-writing campaigns, and “Pie the Professor” competitions. Winners of the annual Swerve dance competition at MC often donate their spoils to the cause.

All of the proceeds help Children’s of Mississippi create a comfortable environment for pediatric patients and their families at the state’s only children’s hospital.

The MC students’ fundraising efforts culminate in a Dance Marathon activity sponsored by the Office of Student Engagement. Attendees “cut a rug” to a variety of musical genres – including pop-rock, hip-hop, country, and swing – for six consecutive hours in honor of the way hospitalized children fight for their health every day.

In addition to dancing, the event includes special guest appearances, refreshments, in-event fundraising activities, and the tote board reveal. The evening’s honored guests – Children’s of Mississippi patients – can relax in a family room provided just for them.

Rachel Regan, a sophomore nursing major from Pearl, said this year’s attendees can expect one thing: a whole night of fun.

“We are planning for this event to be a blast for everyone,” said Regan, who serves as co-director of events along with Cook. “Dance Marathon is the only organization on MC’s campus that impacts a cause greater than our own students. What I am most excited for is our last hour, when we will have a phenomenal DJ performing.

“The dancing will be fun, but we will also have other activities for people who may not want to dance all night.”

MC’s Dance Marathon may be the most wide-ranging philanthropic effort ever launched at the Christian University. It enjoys unparalleled support from students, and the results through the years have reflected their enthusiasm.

“The event successfully combines two things MC students love: giving back and a good dance party,” said Anne Bigley, a sophomore nursing student from Dallas, Texas, who serves as director of logistics for Dance Marathon. “It’s hard not to become involved, especially when students hear the testimonies of the families the hospital impacts.”

All three students were introduced to Dance Marathon during freshmen orientation at MC. They each learned how to develop their philanthropic skills and contribute to events like Dance Marathon in the Freshman Leadership Initiative Program (FLIP) class taught by Jonathan Ambrose, associate vice president for the student experience and dean of students at MC.

“Through the class, I had an opportunity to tour Children’s of Mississippi,” Bigley said. “It opened my eyes to how much the hospital benefits the community. After the tour, I fully bought in to Dance Marathon and am excited to be a part of it again this year.”

Dance Marathon began at MC in 2016 and is the Mississippi College branch of the Miracle Network Dance Marathon. It is a non-profit organization that raises money and support for children fighting various childhood diseases.

During its first year at MC, students raised approximately $12,000 for Children’s of Mississippi. At the time, the pediatric hospital had broken ground on an expansion project that would eventually triple the size of the facility and include an inpatient and outpatient clinic, a surgical floor, inpatient care rooms, imaging centers, and two Neonatal Intensive Care Unit floors. MC’s contributions have grown significantly since.

Few philanthropic projects have captured the University’s collective imagination during the last decade as Dance Marathon. It operates with no budget, relying only on volunteers and donations. It succeeds solely on MC alumni and students’ fundraising efforts, promotion, and participation.

So, why is Dance Marathon at MC so popular?

“It’s a fun event that everyone can enjoy,” Cook said. “We want people to have a good time and to come back again next year. We want to make the event unforgettable for the students at MC, but more importantly, for the patients from the hospital who attend.

“Our campus has a passion and mission to help others, and it is evident in the way they support Dance Marathon.”

Bigley finds the event’s purpose most appealing.

“The money we raise is poured directly back into the local community, which allows us to love our neighbor as ourselves, as Jesus commanded,” she said. “There are students all across this campus whose lives have been changed by the hospital, so this cause is personal to us all.”

Dance Marathon registration costs $15 per person and is required to attend the event. All proceeds go directly to Children’s of Mississippi.

Regan said the cause is definitely worth the cost.

“This fundraiser gives our students a first-hand look at where their time, effort, and money go within the hospital,” she said. “This cause is so much greater than our campus and affects so many children in the Jackson Metro area.

“We are excited for this year’s event and we hope everyone on MC’s campus will be as well.”

For more information or to register to attend MC’s Dance Marathon, find us on Instagram @mcdancemarathon.