For a 12th consecutive year, Hope College students are putting their time and talents into the campus-wide Dance Marathon fundraiser "for the kids."
Organized by Hope students, the 24-hour event is conducted on behalf of Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in downtown Grand Rapids, both to raise funds and to build awareness of the hospital's work. It will be held at the college's Dow Center, with the main portion of the marathon beginning with a kickoff celebration on Friday, March 11, at 7 p.m.
A variety of events have been scheduled to punctuate the marathon, including testimonies by families served by the hospital, various performances by student and local groups, and the popular annual lip-sync. The total raised will be announced during a celebration that will begin at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 12, as the Dance Marathon's 5 p.m. conclusion approaches.
Members of the public are invited to observe at any point during the marathon.
Activities on behalf of the marathon began shortly after the beginning of the fall semester and have involved nearly 30 student organizations. More than 500 Hope students will be participating in the March 11-12 Dance Marathon itself as dancers or morale boosters or in a variety of other roles.
To emphasize the children that the marathon exists to help, the Dance Marathon's student organizers coordinate a variety of activities during the course of the school year to connect with families and children served by Helen DeVos Children's Hospital. In addition, each of the families is paired with one of the participating student groups. Events this year included participation in a "Homecoming Hoedown" at Teusink's Pony Farm in Holland this past fall; a lunch attending a Hope men's basketball game at the college's DeVos Fieldhouse; a Christmas party on campus for the families and their student organizations with a pizza lunch and crafts; and a rally at the Dow Center on Tuesday, March 1, for the families and the students who are part of the marathon.
Students involved with Dance Marathon have raised funds for the effort in a variety of ways, from collecting returnable cans, to an event at Buffalo Wild Wings, to a date auction, to writing letters to family and friends. Among other activities, campus groups have sponsored bake sales, the Emersonian fraternity organized a cornhole/bag-toss tournament, and local businesses including Lemonjello's, J P's Coffee & Espresso Bar, and the Cold Stone Creamery have sponsored promotions.
Affiliated with the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, Dance Marathon at Hope is one of more than 150 such efforts at colleges, universities and high schools nationwide.
Dance Marathon first came to Hope in March of 2000. Though a school of the college's size was only expected to raise about $5,000 in its first year, the students raised more than $23,000. In the 11 years from 2000 through 2010, Dance Marathon raised a total of more than $830,000, including $50,312.23 last year.
In recognition of the program's efforts, Dance Marathon received the "Youth in Philanthropy Award" from the West Michigan Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in the fall of 2003.
Helen DeVos Children's Hospital is West Michigan's largest children's hospital, and is located in a new 206-bed, 464,000-square-foot facility that opened in January. Serving children and families throughout a 37-county region, the hospital includes more than 150 pediatric specialty physicians uniquely skilled in providing medical and surgical care to children in more than 40 pediatric specialties. The hospital cares for more than 8,000 inpatients and 150,000 outpatients annually.
In order to help support the vast number of ailing children that visit the hospital each year, all proceeds from the marathon will go directly towards the funding of special programs that are designed to make the young patients' visits to the hospital more bearable while also helping the families of the children to deal with their illnesses.
Children's Miracle Network Hospitals is an international non-profit organization dedicated to helping children by raising funds and awareness for more than 170 children's hospitals throughout North America. Each year, these non-profit hospitals treat 17 million children with diseases, injuries and birth defects of every kind.
Additional information about Dance Marathon and the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital can be found online at www.helpmakemiracles.org/event/hopecollege 
The DowCenter is located at 168 E. 13th St., on 13th Street at Columbia Avenue.