For a ninth 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 beginning on Friday, March 7, 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. A running total of the amount raised will be shared throughout the event, with the final tally announced during a celebration that will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 8, as the Dance Marathon's 7 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 more than 30 student organizations. More than 500 Hope students will be participating in the March 7-8 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.

Affiliated with the Children's Miracle Network, Dance Marathon at Hope is one of more than 70 such efforts at colleges and universities 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 eight years from 2000 through 2007, Dance Marathon raised a total of more than $597,000, including $116,073.98 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.

As the only children's hospital in Western Michigan, Helen DeVos Children's Hospital is dedicated to providing comprehensive care to children. It serves as a referral center for newborns, infants, children, and adolescents throughout the state. More than 150 physicians in 40 pediatric specialties care for more than 7,000 inpatients and more than 125,000 outpatients every year at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital.

In order to help support the vast number of ailing children that visit the hospital each year, all proceeds from the auction 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 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 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 at 168 E. 13th St., on 13th Street at Columbia Avenue.