With less than two weeks until the third annual Hope College Dance Marathon, students are kicking their fund-raising into high gear.

As students try to exceed the $37,000 they raised last year, planning continues for the 24-hour charitable drive for children. The funds raised are donated directly to DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids.

"This is the time of year when student organizations try to put all their energy into raising money for the kids," said senior Beth Otto of Hudsonville, who is the overall director of the student-run event.

Dance Marathon will begin on Friday, March 8, at 7 p.m. and will run until Saturday, March 9, at 7 p.m. in the college's Dow Center. During the event, dancers are required to stay on their feet for the duration. Approximately 170 dancers are registered.

Each dancer must raise at least $225 to participate. Some 30 campus organizations are involved in the event, coordinating their own efforts to raise money to sponsor their own dancers and for the children. Activities have included a Valentine's Day dance sponsored by a residence hall, a chili cook-off, a plant sale sponsored by an academic department and many pop can drives sponsored by various Greek organizations.

Dance Marathon itself is planned by a "Dream Team" comprised of 18 students who head committees with responsibilities ranging from marketing to catering. Tiffany Ghent, a senior from Jenison who is executive director of planning with Dance Marathon, said, "This is the month where meetings become longer and more intense as we count down the days until the marathon."

Approximately 120 dancers participated in last year's Dance Marathon, which was held on Friday-Saturday, March 9-10, and raised $37,219.54. In its first year, in 2000, the event raised more than $23,000.

The amount raised this year will be announced during a celebration scheduled for the conclusion of the marathon on Saturday, March 9, at 7 p.m.