With a 20-plus-year history, Dance Marathon wasn’t about to sit 2021 out — despite the pandemic.

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. Approximately 600 students will be participating this year, but with the traditional gathering in the college’s Dow Center out of the question, the planners have devised creative alternatives for this year’s event, which will be held on Friday and Saturday, March 26-27.

For example:

  • Instead of filling the Dow Center, the dancers will hoof it alone or in small gatherings at their residences, with a virtual check-in challenge (photographing themselves regularly with the current time) if they want to show that they’ve stayed afoot for the duration.
  • A closed link for the campus community via an online platform will feature presentations that traditionally take place at the Dow Center to punctuate the 24 hours for the gathered participants (a mix of live and pre-recorded segments anticipated to include the opening, closing, remarks by the Miracle Families, musical entertainment, a lip sync and a talent show).
  • The opening ceremony on Friday, March 26, at 5:30 p.m. will not host participants or an audience in person but will be presented live during the on-campus video feed,
  • In previous years the assembled Hope students have formed two tightly-packed rows to create a long tunnel for families served by the hospital to travel to the stage for the opening ceremony at the Dow Center.  This year, the physically distanced students will greet the families at an outdoor campus location immediately prior to the opening ceremony.
  • For a break during the marathon, the participants can drop by the great room of the Bultman Student Center or the rotunda of the Martha Miller Center for Global Communication except for the 1-8 a.m. period.  The sites will feature spaced-apart stations with activities such as card games and board games, or the opportunity to make crafts for children served by the hospital.
  • A Hope Chapel band will perform on Saturday, March 27, at 8:30 a.m. in the Pine Grove in the center of campus.
  • The total raised this year will be announced on Saturday, March 27, at 4 p.m. without an in-person audience. In addition to being revealed live during the on-campus video feed, the figure will be shared via Dance Marathon’s Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/hopecollegedm

Affiliated with the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Dance Marathon at Hope is one of more than 400 such efforts at colleges, universities and high schools nationwide. Miracle Network Dance Marathon has raised more than $300 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals since its inception in 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 2019, having raised its highest-ever $340,172, Hope’s Dance Marathon was the #4 fundraising program in the nation among campuses with fewer than 12,000 undergraduates.  Hope bested its 2019 record last year, when the students raised more than $370,671, bringing the event’s cumulative, 21-year total to more than $3 million.

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is a 234-bed regional referral center and teaching hospital that also houses a pediatric neurocritical care unit, the only of such kind in West Michigan. It offers advanced pediatric specialty care with more than 300 pediatric physicians who practice in more than 50 pediatric specialties and programs. Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is Michigan’s largest neonatal center.

In order to help support the vast number of children who 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; helping the families of the children to deal with their illnesses; and supplies related to treatment and care.

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals is an international non-profit organization dedicated to helping children by raising funds and awareness for 170 children’s hospitals throughout North America.

Additional information about Dance Marathon and Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, and about how to make a donation, is online at hope.edu/offices/student-life/dance-marathon/