Since 2000, two days in early March have been "Dance Marathon" days at Hope College.

This year, the designation applies city-wide. A proclamation signed by Holland Mayor Albert McGeehan designates Friday and Saturday, March 9-10, as
"Dance Marathon" days in the city of Holland. Organized by Hope students, the 24-hour Dance Marathon raises funds for and builds awareness of Helen DeVos Children's Hospital of Grand Rapids through the Children's Miracle Network. The mayor's proclamation celebrates the students' "selfless spirit of giving through the Children's Miracle Network to those individuals and families who are dealing with the fallout that is the result of serious childhood illness."

This year's Dance Marathon will be held at the college's Dow Center beginning on Friday, March 9, at 7 p.m. A variety of events have been scheduled to punctuate the event, including testimonies by families served by the hospital, various performances by student and local groups, and the popular annual lip-sync. The total raised this year will be announced during a celebration that will begin shortly before the conclusion of the marathon on Saturday, March 10, at 7 p.m.

Members of the public are invited to observe at any point during the marathon.

Activities on behalf of the marathon started shortly after the beginning of the fall semester and have involved 31 student organizations. More than 500 Hope students will be participating in the March 9-10 Dance Marathon itself as dancers or morale boosters or in a variety of other roles.

Individual students involved with the effort have raised funds in a variety of ways, from canning--seeking donations with can in hand--to asking family and friends. Event-wide efforts included an auction in January that featured items donated by several local businesses, organizations and individuals. Every Tuesday, Papa John's pizza donates to Dance Marathon a portion of the proceeds from sales to those who say "It's for the kids" when ordering.

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 seven years from 2000 through 2006, Dance Marathon raised a total of more than $481,000.

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 the only hospital in western Michigan dedicated to providing comprehensive care to children, and is also the only Children's Miracle Network hospital on the western side of the state. The hospital provides medical care generally not available at community hospitals, and serves as a referral center for newborns, infants, children and adolescents in 37 counties. The hospital annually has more than 7,000 admissions and more than 100,000 outpatient visits.

Dance Marathon at Hope is one of more than 70 such efforts affiliated with the Children's Miracle Network at colleges and universities nationwide. Children's Miracle Network is an international non-profit organization dedicated to helping children by raising funds and awareness for 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 on the Dance Marathon Web site, reachable through the college's Web site at:

The Dow Center is located on Columbia Avenue at 13th Street.