Bass shakes the floor. Hundreds of Auburn students illuminated by flashing lights cluster around the stage, screaming the words to “Whatever It Takes" as it's announced that Auburn University Dance Marathon raised just over $500,000 during the past year for the Columbus Regional Medical Center.
Over the course of the past year, AUDM has fundraised with the efforts culminating at the main event Saturday, a 14-hour dance marathon. It began at 10 a.m., and students raised money all the way up until midnight when it was revealed how much AUDM raised for its partner Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.
“I want to be a pediatric nurse and just hearing the families’ stories, that really hits home to me because that’s the reason I want to do what I’m doing,” said Savannah Kubala, freshman AUDM participant. “I want to help families like that, and I want to help kids like that. So I’m probably going to be doing this every year now.”
Part of Children Miracle Network Dance Marathon's mission statement is to dance for those who can't. Participants had to stay on their feet for the entirety of the event, which included playing Just Dance, being visited by a hypnotist, singing along to countless songs and listening to the testimonials of over 15 families who have been helped by the work of AUDM.
“One person was born like four months early, and it’s amazing that they survived, and that was thanks to the money that we raise here,” said Jacob Dewey, AUDM participant and freshman in aerospace engineering. “It was just nice to be able to see the human side. Instead of like, ‘Oh, we raised half a million.' it’s like we can see where the money goes and how it affects their lives."
The total amount raised was $502,195 over the course of the year, which is down from last year when AUDM raised $568,417. Since AUDM came to campus in 2011, the organization has raised over $2.5 million.
“We’re here to serve the community in a nice, fun, clean way — a good way to spend a Saturday and take a little study break,” said Gavyn McCall, AUDM participant and senior in psychology. “I’ve met so many good, kind people tonight that I never would have met without this event. There are so many families who have persevered in their struggles. They’ve honestly given me strength to carry on. They inspire me.”
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The air was filled with screams of joy as the participants celebrated the work that they have done to benefit Piedmont Regional’s neonatal intensive care unit, which cares for premature babies and has been a primary fundraising focus of AUDM.
AUDM aims to raise $2 million in five years specifically for the complete expansion and renovation of the NICU. It is its third year of the five years and had already raised over $1 million.
The favorite moment of the night for Tatom Moore, AUDM vice president of finance, was when a woman approached her, crying and celebrating because she had reached her goal and pushed further, raising more money than she had thought possible.
The participant's passion for the children, Moore said, was an inspirational moment during an amazing night, igniting the true AUDM spirit.
For those looking to get involved, AUDM is already preparing to open applications for its next fundraising season and dance marathon.
“Just because this event ends, doesn’t mean these kids stop being sick,” Moore said.
The organization has many different positions available and welcomes anyone who wants to contribute.
“I have four younger sisters, and so growing up, I always experienced having small children in my house,” Dewey said. “Nothing was wrong with them, but if something was, then I would have wanted for my parents not to have had to worry about paying medical bills. So being able to raise money for the people who are in that situation just feels amazing.”
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