Anyone in the audience at Tommy’s Place for the six-hour Trojan Dance Marathon last Friday would have seen Event Operations Chair Judy Clayton running around in a squirrel costume and Song Girl skirt. They would have seen the entire room joining in on a high-intensity Bollywood workout dance. They would have seen past patients at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles as young as two years old jumping into dance circles. They would have seen Asher Hatch, one of the many Miracle Children who took the stage, chasing his dad around in a 10-foot inflatable dinosaur costume and telling jokes.
This kind of exuberance was typical of the event. It was jam-packed with upbeat music, performances by the UnderSCore a cappella group and complementary cereal and donut bar. Attendees could even donate money to send a friend to “jail,” who then had to raise twice as much money to get bailed.
Trojan Dance Marathon was one of five such events held across the country on March 1, and USC was one of 400 colleges and high schools to host the event. These marathons typically range from six to 40 hours long and benefit hundreds of pediatric hospitals nationwide. The Children’s Miracle Network has raised over $250 million through Dance Marathon programs since 1991, and the annual total is steadily increasing each year.
After a one-year hiatus, organizers of the Trojan Dance Marathon exceeded their own expectations and raised more than $31,000 from 311 participants on 29 teams. Proceeds will benefit Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
The primary motto of the Miracle Network Dance Marathon, repeated throughout the night, was “For The Kids.” Sara Atun, dancer relations chair of Trojan Dance Marathon, even instructed the audience to “dab for the kids” while teaching a dance.
“We all just really cared about the whole premise like ‘For The Kids,’ and everything you’re doing is for these children,” said Rebecca Breitstein, executive director of Trojan Dance Marathon a junior majoring in business administration and Spanish.
CHLA, a Miracle Network Hospital, is one of the only “safety-net” pediatric facilities in the country, which means it provides care to those who need it regardless of financial ability.
It’s just a fun event, and you’re doing it all for a great cause,” said Jack Warnecke, a freshman majoring in journalism who served as a member of the marathon’s social media committee. “I don’t really know what about it couldn’t be fun.”
The night also had moments that were deeply personal, as the Miracle Children and their families shared their stories of how CHLA went above and beyond in providing care for them.
“A lot of things that people like to talk about with CHLA is how it doesn’t feel like a hospital, and that’s true, it really doesn’t,” said Allen Alvarado, one of the Miracle Children. “It’s one thing to have people working on you. It’s a completely different thing to have people working with you and making you see the strength inside yourself, which is what every nurse, every doctor, every employee of Children’s Hospital did.”
This sentiment was echoed by nearly every speaker who took the stage. Senior football long snapper Jake Olson spoke about his experiences at CHLA, where he was treated on and off for 12 years.
Breitstein was one of three students responsible for bringing Trojan Dance Marathon back to USC’s campus, along with Hallie Arena and Kristian Chun. After celebrating its 10th annual marathon in Spring 2017, CHLA staff and advisors discontinued the event because of low both fundraising and participation.
“It wasn’t quite the force that it is on other campuses,” said Trojan Dance Marathon Advisor Emma Standring-Trueblood.
Breitstein, Chun and Arena, however, were not ready to give up on the marathon.
“We just sat there one day and looked at each other and said, ‘We really miss Dance Marathon,’” Breitstein said.
After making the suggestion to CHLA, the three were tasked with writing a comprehensive business plan to prove they were committed to bringing Trojan Dance Marathon back to USC’s campus and making it a successful event.
“They are three amazing young women that had a vision, and they proved that vision to us,” Standring-Trueblood said. “This comes from their minds, this comes from them and the team that they have built, all the work everyone has put in and the leadership of those three.”
In addition to the dancing and fundraising, the success of this event proved to Breitstein and her fellow executive board members that the Trojan Dance Marathon can become a sustainable tradition on USC’s campus.
“Long term, I would love to see over $100,00 raised a year,” Breitstein said. “I think that we have the student body possible and generally speaking, enough affluence and resources to be able to find ways to generate that much in donations every year.”