For an 18th consecutive year, hundreds of Hope College students are putting their time and talents into the campus-wide Dance Marathon fundraiser.

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 10, 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 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 11, as the Dance Marathon’s 5 p.m. conclusion approaches.

Members of the public are encouraged 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 950 Hope students will be participating in the March 10-11 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; mini-marathons at West Ottawa High School and Zeeland East High School; a Christmas party for the families in December; and an ice-skating party for the families and their student organizations.

Students involved with Dance Marathon have raised funds for the effort in a variety of ways, from collecting returnable cans; to a 5K run/walk in November; to a frozen yogurt competition at Orange Leaf; to writing letters to family and friends. Among other activities, campus groups have sponsored bake sales; students have put together pasta and chili nights; and JP’s Coffee & Espresso Bar hosted a silent auction.

Affiliated with the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Dance Marathon at Hope is one of more than 300 such efforts at colleges, universities and high schools nationwide. Miracle Network Dance Marathon has raised more than $150 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals since 1991.

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 17 years from 2000 through 2016, Hope’s Dance Marathon has raised a total of more than $1.74 million.

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 a 212-bed regional referral center and teaching hospital. It offers advanced pediatric specialty care with more than 200 pediatric physicians who practice in more than 50 pediatric specialties and programs. Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is Michigan’s largest neonatal center. More information is available here.

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.

Additional information about Dance Marathon and the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, and about how to make a donation, is online.

The Dow Center is located at 168 E. 13th St., on 13th Street at Columbia Avenue.