Keep dancing: UofSC students raise $1,038,156 for children

Allen Wallace photos.

A year of hard work for a dedicated group of University of South Carolina students came down to 14 hours of dancing and fundraising Saturday, and the results were literally life-changing.

UofSC Dance Marathon set a new record in its 21st year, raising $1,038,156 for the kids at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital in Columbia. The total, revealed at the end of Saturday’s Main Event, will fund the hospital’s Child Life program, designed to make hospital stays and treatments as comfortable as possible and support the kids and their families.

Over and over at Main Event, those kids and families took the stage to tell the Dance Marathon team (all students, all volunteers) how much that program means.

“They make it so much better, so much easier for the kids to go through everything they have to go through,” said Crystal Hewitt, whose daughter Ellington was treated at the children’s hospital after being born with spina bifida. “It’s not just an event, it’s a relationship.”

The relationship Hewitt mentioned is the other, equally important, part of Dance Marathon. The students visit the hospital, host events for the kids and families and offer moral support and love as well as fundraising.

“You are our family. We can’t thank you enough,” said Courtney Tipping, whose daughter Zoe is also a Miracle Kid, as the hospital patients are known.

Many of the students who have personal connections to the hospital (part of the Children’s Miracle Network) shared their stories too. UofSC senior Kendel Davy spoke of Riley, a young cheerleader Davy coached who passed away due to childhood cancer.

“Dance Marathon is very important to me because I was able to tell Riley’s story, to continue her legacy and keep her alive,” Davy said. “Everyone deserves to be able to wear a Gamecock cheerleading uniform and go to football games. That’s why I dance.”

UofSC President Harris Pastides and First Lady Patricia Moore-Pastides were among the last speakers on what they called their favorite day of the year.

“You embody the very best of Carolina. You make this the best university not in the state, that’s a no-brainer, but in the whole world,” Pastides said. “Nobody forced you to be here. You’re not getting credit for this. You’re not getting paid for this. You’re not going to Five Points because of this.”

“Look at yourself. Individually you are regular people. Together you have power,” Moore-Pastides added. “You come together in a group like this and you can really make change. Don’t ever feel helpless or hopeless.”

Dance Marathon President Kaity Lynch, who set an individual fundraising record for USC, topping $26,000, reminded the students over and over of the reason they dance: for the kids.

“Let’s make this so loud they can hear us at the hospital,” she said, calling for the familiar cheer of “FTK.” “Let them know there is a group of students fighting for them on a Saturday night.”

UofSC Dance Marathon never ends. Students will take a brief break, then choose new leaders and begin the journey toward Main Event 2020. Donations are always accepted at USCDM.org.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Columbia, Richland County

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