We were told to sleep during the day as much as possible, since from 10:00 p.m. to 10:00 a.m. we would be wide-awake. This wasn’t a problem at all for me; although I remember thinking it was kind of weird to hop in bed late mid-day with my alarm set to wake me up around eight in the evening. My hands were still stained purple and pink, results of tie dying team shirts a few days before. In my head, I repeated the dance that we had to learn to be done every hour on the hour. I wasn’t sure what to expect, or even if I could make it the entire 12 hours locked inside the gym. Emmanuel College’s Dance Marathon (ECDM) had officially begun.
A little background on Dance Marathon. 2016 marked ECDM’s fifth year involved in the nationwide movement to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The event hits home especially close to Emmanuel, since Boston Children’s is literally located in it’s backyard. More than 350 high schools and colleges across the country participate in the fundraiser. ECDM is actually the second highest fundraising school in the northeast region! The only college that beats us for the top spot is UCONN, whose student body is around nine times greater.
Fast forward and my alarm broke me out of a pretty deep nap. The freshman dorm hall was loud with activity; as for a first-year student, ECDM is an extremely big deal. My poorly made shirt was still damp with dye when I threw it over my head and went to find the rest of my team. The rest of the time leading up to the start was a blur of lining up, waiting, listening to the acapella groups perform and anxiously trying to locate the perfect distance from the DJ. Tables lined the pushed up bleachers, soon to house food donated from restaurants all around Boston, and crafts (bracelet making, spell-it-out photos) that participants could occupy themselves with if they got tired of dancing. Against one wall were large painted letters, F, T, and K, the abbreviation of “For The Kids,” that you could snap a photo with. Of course, mine made the Instagram.
After a short motivational speech and a whole lot of cheering, the gym went momentarily dark before flashing yellow and green lights lit the space. I don’t remember exactly what the first song was, but I do remember thinking that I was transported back to a much cooler version of a high school dance.
I probably shouldn’t have used so many of my best dance moves in those first two hours (just kidding, I’m actually a horrible dancer. I’m all arms and legs), since word soon spread that—surprise!—you weren’t allowed to sit during the twelve hours of ECDM. Fortunately, crouching was allowed. It looked a little strange, but when you’ve been moving non-stop for nearly six hours, trust me, it’s needed.
Non-stop movement didn’t just mean dancing, though. This was a huge surprise for me. After two hours, the DJ began to pack up his equipment, leaving us standing in a suddenly too bright gym. There was still ten hours to go. But the students and faculty involved with ECDM knew what they were doing. Throughout the course of the night, there were live performances, karaoke, basketball games, dodge ball and Zumba, just to name a few. My favorites were the hours between four and six when the main attraction was a silent disco. Basically, each participant was given a pair of headphones with two dials on the side. The two dials were tuned to each of the DJs stationed at the front of the gym. The two competed with one another by playing the type of music they figured we would want to dance to. I never had so much fun (and been so wide awake) at five in the morning.
Twelve hours is a long time to do anything. Throughout the night, I constantly expressed to my friends that I didn’t think I could make it for the duration of ECDM. “Trust me, it’s worth it,” older students told me. “Stay!” So I stayed, and as overtired as I was, come 10:00 a.m. it was worth it. A whopping $120,609.97 was raised for Boston Children’s Hospital. I felt an overwhelming sense of pride, standing amongst a sea of students crying tears of happiness (and also exhaustion) as the final number was held up to the crowd. Patients whose stories were shared stood off to the side. They were small and frail, but their smiles still stretched ear to ear, and I counted myself lucky. Lucky to be able to willingly attend an event such as ECDM, and to give hope to those who need hope the most.