FTK – For the Kids

An event that many students look forward to every year and spend months in advance pouring their hearts into raising money for, became an experience for me personally that impacted my life more than I expected. Dance Marathon is an event that is run entirely by students in an effort to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network, located between both Shands and Wolfsons Children’s Hospitals in downtown Jacksonville.

Every year, over 17 million children are helped and saved by this organization throughout the country. To reflect this, students who participate in Dance Marathon stand for an entire 17 hours and dance for the children who can’t.

My older sister has been on committees with this event for three years now and I had always listened to her go on and on about it. Out of curiosity, and an effort to get involved, I decided to join a committee for my first year. A few months before the event, I had easily become good friends with a lot of the people that were involved in putting this event together. One of those people quickly became a best friend to me. She was so determined and lived and breathed Dance Marathon on a daily basis; a true inspiration with her dedication. Between her and my sister, I was thrown into the Dance Marathon world and loved working toward the event every day. I saw how hard everyone was consistently working to raise money before the event and it wasn’t until the end of the event that I realized how much that mattered.

The day had finally arrived. I remember it being the longest 17 hours and 4 minutes (four minutes because this was our fourth year holding the event on our campus) of my life. The night had its ups and downs and was so much harder than I thought it would be. But that’s where it clicked for me. Children who struggle with sickness, disease, disabilities, birth defects, this is how they feel every day. There were so many moments that I wanted to give up and sit down because it was so hard but I can’t imagine a child giving up on their life because it gets too hard for them to keep fighting. I was also on the morale committee, which means that I was a “cheerleader” for all the students participating. On top of being exhausted and fighting my closing eyes and weak legs, I had to keep everyone pumped all night and excited to dance.

In the previous year of Dance Marathon, students had raised over $26,000! An amount like that is incredible. When morning began to creep up on everyone, by the time we knew it, it was the end and the overall team of the event was about to announce the amount of money raised. The total revealed $24,370.44. Although we hadn’t reached the amount from the year before, it was still an amazing accomplishment. But wait, the amount wasn’t correct? A sneaky surprise by the overall chair of the event, she asked two people to switch spots in the total, which in turn revealed that we had actually raised $42,370.44! In an instant I was in tears and shambles, a surreal moment that I couldn’t grasp. I rushed to my sister and best friend’s side on stage and hugged as we all cried in disbelief that we had exceeded a goal that was entirely ahead of our expectations. It was a moment that still brings tears to my eyes because every effort we made had in fact made a difference in the end. I met so many amazing people through this event and had such an incredible time preparing for this as well as participating. It is no longer a question in my mind whether I will do this again, but it is guaranteed. I already can’t wait to start fundraising as well prepare for the upcoming year. FTK-for the kids.

Written By: Angelica Grab

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