Dance Marathon attracts record number of participants

Annual event dedicated to McLeod; Wrighton to donate $13 for every faculty, staff member who attends

A record-number of dancers – 1,360 — have signed up to participate in the annual St. Louis Dance Marathon at Washington University in St. Louis beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5 through 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 6 in the Athletic Complex Field House.

Organizers of the annual event say this year, students are dancing not only for kids, but in remembrance of the late James E. McLeod, vice chancellor for students and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, who died Sept. 6. McLeod was a lifetime supporter of the event.

Faculty and staff members also are being given a special invitiation: They are invited to learn a few new dance moves, witness the creativity, energy and talent of WUSTL students and become a hero to a child at the Sixth Annual Faculty and Staff Reception beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, in the Athletic Complex.

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, who feels strongly about this benefit for Children’s Miracle Network, is donating $13 – in honor of the event’s 13th year – for every faculty and staff member who attends.

WUSTL annually hosts the entirely student-run dance marathon that culminates a yearlong fundraising effort for Children’s Miracle Network of Greater St. Louis. WUSTL students reach out to other local college and high school students to create teams, fundraise and prepare for the main event: the 12-hour dance marathon. Every registered student dancer sets a minimum fundraising goal of $150 for the event itself, but many raise funds all year through a variety of drives and projects.

The 2010 Dance Marathon yielded more than $170,000 with the help of students from WUSTL, Fontbonne University, local high schools and other members of the St. Louis community. Every penny raised goes directly toward the Children’s Miracle Network of Greater St. Louis and is equally divided between two local pediatric institutions: St. Louis Children’s Hospital and SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center.

“We’re so grateful for the time and effort the Wash. U. students put into organizing the Dance Marathon,” says Janice Bailey, vice president of St. Louis Children’s Hospital Foundation. “The funds Children’s Hospital receives from Children’s Miracle Network are critical to sustain programs and services for the children and families we serve.

“One example of how the funds are used is in operating our Healthy Kids Express mobile health program, which provides free health screenings and immunizations to nearly 20,000 children every year,” Bailey says. “Many of these kids don’t have access to basic, preventive health care services, so these funds are helping fulfill a real need in our community.”

Previous funds raised by the Dance Marathon helped SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital create the region’s only pediatric hybrid catheterization suite, according to Dan Buck, executive director of the foundation. “This suite allows us to diagnose and treat heart problems in one procedure, which results in safer care and faster healing for our patients,” Buck says.

“This year, we plan to put the proceeds of the Dance Marathon toward a major investment in a new radiology department, which includes new MRI and CT imaging machines.”

Faculty & Staff Reception

The Faculty & Staff Reception is an opportunity for employees to learn more about the event, mingle with colleagues, enjoy refreshments and hear from some of the “Miracle Children”— those who have been treated at one of the beneficiary hospitals.

Other speakers include: Sara Elster, faculty and staff relations chair and a junior majoring in political science and Spanish, both in Arts & Sciences, Chancellor Wrighton, and his wife, Risa Zwerling Wrighton, the honorary event chair. Employees initially should arrive in the lobby and will be guided to the north atrium.

Faculty and staff will get a chance to see the dance event in action around 5 p.m. In the spirit of the event, however, faculty and staff aren’t just going to walk into the Recreational Gym; they will be taught a short, choreographed dance and the music will be cued upon their entry. Once there, faculty and staff then will take to the stage, where they will perform their newly learned routine, along with the rest of the dancers. (Dancing, of course, is optional; all faculty and staff – dancers and non-dancers alike – are encouraged to attend.)

Employees are welcome to bring children to join in on the “entrance dance,” jump on inflatables or participate in games and crafts with Miracle families.

Inside the main dance area, employees can watch one of the many performances by student groups and St. Louis-area entertainers or bid on donated prizes in the Miracle Auction (highest bidders do not need to be present at selection time).

All the while, students will be dancing. Although students aren’t required to dance during the entire marathon, they are asked to remain standing for the full 12 hours, except for mealtime. Standing for 12 hours is a symbolic gesture representing the struggles of Miracle Children and their families.

Converting the Athletic Complex into the “No. 1 dance celebration of the year” takes the leadership of hundreds of students and a 31-member student board headed by executive directors Claire Pluard, a senior majoring in Latin American studies and Spanish in Arts & Sciences, and Anastasia Romanyuk, a senior in systems science and engineering.

Students are involved in a multitude of ways – from soliciting corporate auction donations and a free meal for the dancers – to coordinating on-site logistics and publicity. Even the Campus Kitchen at WUSTL will use leftover food to make the event more sustainable.

Since its beginning, the WUSTL event has grown from 100 dancers raising approximately $100 each to nearly 1,400 participants and hundreds of other community visitors and volunteers working together on behalf of children’s hospitals. Dance marathons take place on a number of university campuses throughout the U.S. to benefit children’s organizations.

RSVP online for the faculty/staff reception by Thursday, Nov. 3, at Donations are not required, but highly encouraged. Nearby parking is in The Village lot, Snow Way parking garage or Olin Business School lot. Faculty and staff should follow the guidelines for their parking permits.

For more information or to donate online, visit