Auburn University Dance Marathon has been raising funds through dancing since 2008.
AUDM is best known for its annual dance marathons in addition to its other events including a 5K race every October and the Miracle on The Plains fundraiser.
“We’re a yearlong fundraising movement for our local Children’s Miracle Network hospital,” AUDM President Tiffany Thompson said. “We’re a big group of Auburn students dedicated to bettering the lives of these children.”
AUDM is a member of the Miracle Network Dance Marathon, an international movement to raise money for pediatric hospitals. The movement started in 1991 at Indiana University where a dance marathon was held in memory of Ryan White.
Today, over 300 campuses and high schools hold dance marathons, and last year, more than $32 million was raised overall.
Auburn’s first dance marathon was started by Sara Beth Brown after she was elected Miss Auburn in the spring of 2008. It originally funded Habitat for Humanity, but after a few years, the movement began to die out until 2011 when efforts were made to reinvigorate the movement.
Former AUDM's President Casey Stein said John-Michael Roehm, assistant director of Student Involvement, approached her about resurrecting dance marathon.
“SGA kind of wanted to give it one more chance to be successful," Stein said. "At the same time, the Children’s Miracle Network who it benefits now had reached out and said, ‘Hey [dance marathon] is actually part of our branding, we would love for you guys to partner with us.'”
Stein was a member of her high school’s dance marathon and said she was excited to organize an official dance marathon on Auburn’s campus.
AUDM was assigned to support Columbus Regional Medical Center, now Midtown Medical Center since it's the closest pediatric care center to Auburn.
“Just because our hospital is in Georgia does not mean that there should be a disconnect because there’re a lot of children in Lee County that do have to be treated at our Children’s hospital,” Thompson said.
Stein said the fundraising goal for AUDM’s first year was the price of one giraffe bed or $35,000.
On its third year, AUDM pledged to raise a million dollars within five years to expand the children care center at the hospital. Their goal was reached within four years, and at the groundbreaking ceremony, the new lobby was named in honor of dance marathon.
“We’re just always trying to increase our goal,” Thompson said. “This year our public goal is $658,000, and the reason we chose that number is because there were 658 pediatric surgeries to be specific that occurred at our hospital this past year, and so we wanted to have a number with a lot of meaning.”
AUDM is now raising the necessary funds needed to improve the neonatal intensive care unit or NICU at Midtown Medical Center, and they have pledged to give $2 million over the next four years.
“[The NICU] was a 40-bed unit, and it’s moving up to a 46-bed unit,” said Jessie Doggett, the Children’s Miracle Network Officer at Midtown Medical Center.
Dogget said that the center previously lacked privacy with no walls and a large number of beds.
"For the families that are going through that time, it’s just really hard," Dogget said. "There’s not even enough room for a chair in between; it was just packed out.”
The new NICU will have 46 separate beds that will be divided by walls.
“We serve 21 counties, so [the NICU] is one of our busiest departments and floors here in our Children’s hospital,” Doggett said. “A lot of the AUDM students have come in to see it, and they can see firsthand where their money is going.”
This year’s dance marathon will be on Feb. 10 and will last 14 hours.
“We don’t just dance; dance marathon is just kind of our name," Thompson said. "We pledge to stand and support these children for 14 hours. We’re not dancing the whole time.”
Miracle families, the children and families who have directly benefitted from AUDM’s fundraising, are invited to the dance marathon and speak about their experience.
“Throughout the day we’ll have miracle families speak, and whenever a miracle family walks into a room, all the students get down on one knee," Doggett said. "
Doggett said students remain on their knees for the duration of the family's speech in respect to the families.
“We would not be where we are today if it wasn’t for [AUDM’s] support," Doggett said. "We would not have our NICU today if it wasn’t for their support, they are truly making miracles possible.”