Dance Marathon Shifts to Student Organization, Separates from FLIP
Several internal changes occur to Dance Marathon to enhance the future growth of the fundraiser.
Dance Marathon has prevailed as the biggest student-led fundraiser since its inception in 2016. Historically, fundraising has been headed by a committee and the students of the Freshman Leadership Initiative Program (FLIP). The two groups worked together to raise money and awareness for Children’s of Mississippi. However, several changes to the inner workings of Dance Marathon have occurred, including the removal of the direct connection between the fundraiser and FLIP and Dance Marathon’s introduction as a new student organization.
All over the nation, universities host Dance Marathons to fundraise for their local children’s hospitals. The fundraising culminates in a six-hour event, where students dance, fundraise, and meet the children and families who are directly helped by the donations made.
MC’s approach to Dance Marathon has stood out because of its connection to FLIP. FLIP is a one-semester class taught by Dr. Jonathan Ambrose, Associate Vice President for the Student Experience and Dean of Students. Students were required to apply to participate in the class. The class focuses on servant leadership, and Dance Marathon has, until now, been the students’ capstone project.
In 2022, for the first time in the history of MC’s Dance Marathon, the final donation amount for the fundraiser did not exceed the previous year’s. FLIP students and the Dance Marathon committee members met soon after the event’s end to discuss the future of the fundraiser.
“We felt that in order for [Dance Marathon] to grow and move forward, we needed to make some major changes in how it’s led and the possibility of mirroring other universities and how they run their dance marathons on our campus,” said Ambrose, who has been an outspoken champion for Dance Marathon. “We decided to decouple Dance Marathon away from the freshman leadership class. We are in the beginning stages of forming a [student organization].”
Ambrose and those involved with Dance Marathon in 2022 noticed the lack of buy-in from the event’s student organizers compared to years past.
“I think the process through FLIP is a forced buy-in,” Ambrose said. “I think students buy into it after the fact. But you don't really understand it as you're getting ready for it. I think what you'll find is people that are passionate about things in life, I think they're going to take the reins and they're going to run with it because they want to, not because they have to.”
Several past Dance Marathon student organizers have worked to morph the annual event into a student organization. The organization will be open to all students, including freshmen and transfers.
“We don't have a requirement that you have to [have been] in FLIP,” sophomore and previous FLIP member Rachel Regan said. “We don't have a requirement that you have to be in it one year before you can be [an officer]. It's a huge fundraiser for an amazing cause, and so we want everybody to be a part of it as much as they want.”
Regan, along with sophomore Maddie White and senior Jordan Little, has helped develop a constitution and a leadership structure for the new Dance Marathon organization. The organization will be led by four directors, officers under each director, and general members. Each director will head one of four divisions: communications, logistics, fundraising, and events.
In the past, FLIP members worked with committee members outside of FLIP on Dance Marathon. However, FLIP members are no longer required to be a part of the event. The class will continue to be offered to freshmen and transfers and taught by Ambrose, as well as Jonathan Nutt, Assistant Dean of Students.
Many past participants in Dance Marathon have personal connections to the fundraiser’s cause.
“My little brother has Down syndrome,” said White. “He spent plenty of time in the Children's Hospital that's in Baton Rouge. Growing up with him, I really got to witness the impact that health care has had on his life. I knew that I would love to be a part of [Dance Marathon].”
Other students underwent treatments of their own at children’s hospitals.
“I actually had some medical issues whenever I was a kid,” Regan said. “One of the things that my parents always talked about was how much of a difference the doctors and the nurses made. Whenever it could have been very, very scary, they helped make sure that they were cared for as well.”
Normal fundraising for Dance Marathon will resume in January, after the directors, officers, and general members are finalized.
“This is a form of community engagement,” Ambrose said. “What I want our students to learn and buy into is that we don't live in a bubble and that we do live in community. I think God designed us to be communal people. I'm hoping that the level of support and awareness for Children’s of Mississippi is elevated through our students.”
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