By: Tia Garcia
More than 800 students rallied behind the slogan, “taking the chance of a lifetime, to give lifetime a chance,” this weekend in the Campus Recreation Center for the Cincinnati Dance Marathon (CDM).
Students spent 24 hours dancing, playing sports, watching magic tricks, learning self-defense, and much more, all while raising money for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
The event started at noon on Saturday and by 4 p.m., more than 400 students had already been accounted for. Although students are free to leave whenever they want, Stephanie Kenning, vice president of operations, along with other executive board members, encouraged students to stay the entire 24 hours.
“I’m really excited that this many people are staying throughout the entire event,” Kenning said. “Sometimes people come at noon and leave at 3 [p.m.] and just feel like, ‘Yeah, I came and did my part,’ but I love that so many people are staying.”
While some students joined the event individually, many students came as part of a team, complete with matching shirts, and competed against one another for “morale points.”
Students earned points for how creative their outfits were, how much spirit they showed and for how their dancing moves fared against others.
While the activities throughout the night were aimed at keeping students awake and entertained, there were more sobering parts of the event. Members of the 29 families that CDM helps benefit made appearances throughout the night and spoke to the audience about their experiences at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
“Although the games are fun, it was the stories that really lifted our spirits,” said Weston Ott, a second-year biomedical engineering student who attended CDM for most of the night. “If we were starting to feel tired their stories just helped us gain energy and keep going.”
All of the children who went on stage to speak had a different, uplifting story to share. Some of the children were born with various ailments, but others showed the dancers that some things could just happen by chance.
Ryan Korengel, a sophomore at Madeira High School, was playing golf with his friends one day in September 2008 when a tree fell on his head. After spending 90 days in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Ryan proved his doctors wrong and began to walk again.
Although he is partially paralyzed on the left side of his body, Ryan still plays on his high school golf team and hopes to continue playing in college.
“While I still have my challenges, my message to you is have fun with what you can do, and don’t waste time thinking about what you can’t,” Korengel said.
Payton Stephens, an 11-year-old girl who has become a poster child of sorts for CDM, also shared her story.
This is her third year attending CDM, and people know her as “Powerful Payton Stephens.” She was diagnosed as an infant with multiple ailments and continues to receive ongoing care at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
“What I love best about CDM is that they raise money for Cincinnati Children’s and they just support everybody in it and we get to dance and have fun,” Stephens said.
After the children and their families spoke, students were encouraged to go talk to them and get to know their stories better. The children even participated in some of the activities at the event, from making bracelets to showing people up on the dance floor.
Every family that spoke mentioned how thankful they were to have college students give up a Saturday night to support their cause, and from the spirit of the morale dances, to the mass amounts of twitter updates, it was clear that students were happy to be there #ForTheKids.