For an 11th 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 12, 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 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 13, 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 12-13 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 preview "mini-marathon" held at the hospital in Grand Rapids on February 23.

Students involved with Dance Marathon have raised funds for the effort in a variety of ways, from organizing a baby-sitting night, to selling mementos as Valentine's Day gifts, to writing letters to family and friends. Event-wide initiatives included an auction in November 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 mention Dance Marathon when ordering.

Affiliated with the Children's Miracle Network, Dance Marathon at Hope is one of more than 100 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 10 years from 2000 through 2009, Dance Marathon raised a total of more than $780,000, including $60,715.25 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, serving children and families throughout a 37-county region. A teaching hospital, it 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 7,600 inpatients and 190,000 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 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 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.