With more than 2,000 participants, the 10th annual Purdue University Dance Marathon was more than a mere success; it was record breaking.
The 18-hour fundraising event began Saturday at 6 p.m. and finished at noon on Sunday. The idea of a dance marathon originally came about because of Ryan White, a hemophiliac who was expelled from his high school for being infected with HIV.
A massive national push for acceptance of prevalence of AIDS came about after his death in 1990. Indiana University began its first dance marathon in 1991, donating its funds to the Riley Hospital for Children. Now in 2013, more than 250 universities across the nation participate in their marathon, including Purdue in its ninth year and 10th marathon.
The year 2013 will be an especially memorable one for PUDM, as the organization reached its goal of $1 million, raising $1,000,471.03. The goal was an ambitious one; last year’s total came to about half of one million, specifically $528,654.67.
Mitch French, a junior in the College of Engineering and catering executive for PUDM, said he knew the goal was a big one, but he still hoped the participants could pull through and have an outstanding dance marathon.
“We were worried,” French said. “We definitely had high hopes, but we didn’t want to get our hopes too high and then be bummed about it ... Whatever number we get is good. Most definitely we were surprised to get a million; we were excited.”
They don’t call it a dance “marathon” for nothing. The event is fun, but it can also tire out and drain the participants’ energy very quickly. Although emergency medical services were on standby, they weren’t needed as pumped up music and excitement fueled the students’ blood with adrenaline.
Jack Coon, a junior in the College of Agriculture, said he kept his focus on what PUDM stands for and his tiredness went away. PUDM is a special one for Coon, especially because he was a Riley kid himself when he was young.
“When I was in kindergarten I had ... a kink in my kidney,” Coon said. “I was in there for three surgeries and have been fine ever since. But it means a little bit more to me than some of the other people.”
Coon also said he never felt fatigued during the event.
“I never felt like I wasn’t going to make it,” Coon said. “I mean, my feet hurt and my legs felt like they had put on 10 pounds, but that was fine. I knew I was going to do it. These kids are going through harder and tougher times, so there was never a time in my mind I wasn’t going to finish.”
The final push for donations began six hours before the ending time of 12 p.m. Even the Purdue Student Government stepped in to announce that for every new follower it gets on its Twitter account, it will donate $1. In the last two hours, over $70,000 was raised as people grabbed their phones to call whoever they could to push the dollar numbers up.
French said that although he learned a lot through talking to Riley kids and working to prepare this year’s event, his experience with other executive board members is one he will never forget.
“Honestly, the biggest experience I got was just through the executive board, getting to meet these 26 other individuals who kind of give up all of their time in college,” French said. “We don’t have a lot of free time, but they really commit themselves to this cause. It takes a lot of effort, but it’s worth it in the end. It’s nice to be around those kinds of people.”
Executive reporter Tom Novak contributed to this story.