LINCOLN, Neb. – A new intensive care unit at Omaha Children’s Hospital received a nearly a quarter million-dollar donation from a group of University of Nebraska-Lincoln students this year.
UNL’s Dance Marathon chapter raised $235,229 in late February, which will all be donated to Omaha’s Children Hospital. The annual fundraising by UNDM culminates in a 12-hour event called “Huskerthon” where hundreds of the student members danced at the Nebraska Union on February 29 in support of children with pediatric cancers and similar diseases.
“It’s the absolute coolest thing to watch these kids walk into a room of hundreds of Huskers and just see their faces light up,” said Madeline Mohatt, a UNL senior and Dance Marathon’s outgoing executive director.
The registered student organization is one of the largest on campus, as nearly 500 students participated this year. UNDM partners with families throughout the year and those families were invited to 15th annual Huskerthon this year where the families told their stories, the children participated in talent shows and UNDM members danced alongside the children at the top of every hour.
“Many of [the children] spent most of their childhood at the hospital,” said former UNDM external director Peyton Bash, a UNL junior and now executive director. “We see our event, Huskerthon, as an opportunity for those kids to feel like a kid would in their childhood and just have fun and freedoms and nothing to worry about.”
The fundraising process starts early in the fall semester. Each member needs to raise $100 to participate at Huskerthon. Many students take to social media to raise money from friends and family, while the UNDM executive team pursues corporate donations.
Mohatt, Bash and the 15 other members that make up the executive team set this year’s fundraising goal at just $225,000. For dramatic purposes, the total fundraising is not revealed until the night of Huskerthon. Many executive-team members don’t know until the reveal whether or not UNDM reached its goal.
“I’m without words,” Mohatt said after reveal.
“I jumped, teared up a little bit, and just gave [Mohatt] a big old hug and said, ‘We did it,’” Bash said.
The new executive team is already at work planning next year’s fundraising and Huskerthon despite the coronavirus breaking up normalcy for college students.
For UNDM members, the job continues, and they often point back to Dance Marathon’s motto: “For the kids.”
“It’s really cool to see college students come together and work so hard towards a common goal,” Bash said.