By Katie Beauregard, Contributing Writer
The Granite State Room was more alive than usual on Saturday, with face painting, pancakes, friendship bracelets and a bounce house. Katie Olszowy, external director of the event, compared it to “a big birthday party.”
But when a person paid close attention, they would see pictures of children who have, and continue to be treated at Boston Children’s Hospital. The second annual University of New Hampshire Dance Marathon was in full swing Saturday, with activities, music and most importantly, hopes to raise awareness and treatment for children with illness.
As UNH’s Sisters in Step performed and Disney music played, everyone involved in the event was more than satisfied with the turn out and money raised. With a goal of $20,000 to be raised, $17,000 had already been raised by 2 p.m.
“My goal is that in 20 years we’ll come back and the Dance Marathon will be raising millions of dollars for children in need,” Olszowy said.
Skyrocketing past their goal of $11,000 from last year, Olszowy’s dream could very well come true. As a fairly new organization and project to the UNH campus, many were shocked, but extremely excited about the outcome and money raised so far. As more donations kept coming, cheers and excitement continued to fill the GSR. For Sam Huston, president and director of the event, the Dance Marathon was much more than just generating money.
“Today was a culmination of everyone’s hard work,” Huston said. “It’s celebrating everything we, and these families have worked for.”
Although the Dance Marathon benefits the entirety of Boston Children’s Hospital, four families who have spent, and will continue to spend, a great deal of time there took part in the event on Saturday.
Excitedly reminiscing about her experience with UNH’s Dance Marathon from last year, 11-year-old Emily Seiler and her family were more than enthusiastic to be back.
“We participate in these type of events in schools around Boston, but it is nice to be from New Hampshire and have people in our home state care so much,” said Amy Seiler, Emily’s mother.
Diagnosed at birth, Emily talked about her continuous fight with primary immunodeficiency disorder, which weakens her immune system, due to the fact that her body can’t produce antibodies.
As a result of this, she has to go to Boston Children’s Hospital every 21 days to get IV fusions of Immunoglobulins, which are glycoprotein molecules produced by white blood cells.
“She is what we call a frequent flyer at Boston Children’s Hospital,” said Amy Seiler. “But she is our miracle child.”
And although Emily is extremely susceptible to things like the flu or a common cold, she continues to take ballet lessons, sign language class, perform in the orchestra and be an awesome big sister.
“To organize something that’s greater and larger than one person is a really good feeling,” Huston said. “Just the feeling of seeing a family on stage, hearing their story and knowing your hard work is benefitting them gives you goose bumps.”
As many Greek Life members, the New Hampshire Notable’s and Irish Step Dancers engaged in the event, it was clear that the four families were having just as great of a time.
“It’s really fun in there,” said Alpha Xi Delta member Alana McKay. “We met some of the kids who are going to directly benefit and it was so nice to see how happy they were.”
As the event ran from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., the day was filled with great spirits. Though donations and raising money for the Boston Children’s Hospital were pivotal for the event, Olszowy felt that there was a much greater meaning to the day.
“All of these families that come and talk to us are so happy to not be in the hospital, but to be here,” Olszowy said. “I really hope that by next year, or the year after, when people say ‘Dance Marathon,’ they know exactly what it is, and what it’s benefitting.”
With extraordinary amounts of participation from UNH students and organizations, the Dance Marathon committee will continue to build this tradition. And for families like the Seiler’s, this is all they could ask for.
“Students like them create hope,” Sieler said. “Whether they’re helping raise funds or becoming the actual medical innovators, this is an amazing step that helps my family everyday.”