Dance Marathon celebrates 24 years, $5 million raised

Jay Conner, center, performing the line dance for the first time with his fellow Morale Captains.


BG Independent Correspondent

Dance Marathon at BGSU raised over $250,000 for Mercy Health Children’s Hospital in Toledo. This year was Dance Marathon’s 24th anniversary, and all the donations from the past years amounted to $5 million.

Participants in the organization’s biggest event, Ziggython, stood for 24 hours in an effort to raise more donations. The event took place in the Perry Field House, started at 6 p.m. Saturday and ended at 6 p.m. on Sunday.

“My feet hurt, but it’s really about the change we’re making,” Alex Stroh, director of Dance Marathon, said.

Stroh has been involved in Dance Marathon since he was a freshman and remembers when Ziggython used to last 32 hours instead of 24. He has been on leadership for the past three years.

“I’ve made a couple life-long friends in this organization, from this university. But I’ve also made life-long friends that are people that we’ve actually helped with the money and we’ve seen the effects that it has on their families and making their lives better,” Stroh said.

Stroh said they had more than 200 dancers and nearly 100 bikers.

The bikers’ journey started on Friday in Cincinnati and they biked 180 miles (60 miles per day) to reach the Perry Field House by 6 p.m. on Sunday.

“There’s a lot of logistics. There’s events that come in-between,” Stroh said. “We work with local high schools and communities to host what we call ‘mini Dance Marathons.’”

The organization hosted as many as six mini Dance Marathons this past year.

“This is just the biggest event of the year that’s a celebration and a cumulation of all the work we’ve done all year,” Stroh said.

One of the main features of the event was the “line dance,” a 14-minute dance originally performed by the Morale Captains, who serve as leaders for the dancers. Throughout the 24 hours, all the dancers had to learn this dance and perform it at the end.

One of the Morale Captains, Jay Conner, said he’s been doing dance marathon for the past two years and this is his first year in leadership. His girlfriend (also a Morale Captain) was the one who told him to do Dance Marathon.

“I’ve loved it ever since,” Conner said.

By raising money for Mercy Health Children’s Hospital, Dance Marathon is able support few admirable causes, including research into pediatric cancer.

“Lexi, my girlfriend, she was diagnosed with cancer, and it was a pediatric cancer. Pediatric cancers don’t get enough funding like adult cancers do, which is really sad because the future is the kids,” Conner said. “We get to raise money for kids who really need it, and that’s what I love about it.”

Dance Marathon leadership kept dancers busy throughout the night, to distract from their aching feet. The events included hip-hop dance lessons, a drag show, a rave at 3 a.m. and many more.

At the end of Ziggython, the dancers were still in high-spirits — despite being very tired — because there were a few things keeping them going. Several miracle children shared their stories throughout the 24 hours.

Sofie Tedesco, a dancer who had been up for 24 hours, said, “My favorite part is getting to see the kids, because when you’re tired or when you’re sore, seeing them it really reminds you why you do it and it fills you with energy.”

A Morale Captain Aubrie Montie said, “I just love how everybody is coming together even though everyone is crazy tired, and supporting each other here, having fun.”