This Nov. 8 and 9, students will dance straight through an entire night without sitting down, all in the name of fighting childhood cancer.
Temple will host its first HootaThon, an all-night dance marathon that will raise funds for the Child’s Life affiliate of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
HootaThon is a part of a larger association of “Thon” organizations, which is comprised of colleges all over the nation that host events to raise funds to combat pediatric cancer. Dubbed HootaThon as a play on Temple’s mascot, the 12-hour dance marathon in Mitten Hall is the conclusion of the student-run HootaThon committee’s efforts made by the organization’s president, Gaelen McCartney.
“Ten days into freshman year, I was ready to start creating HootaThon and start spreading the word and starting our mission,” sophomore fine arts major McCartney said.
McCartney was inspired to start HootaThon after hearing about it from his sister, who is involved in BuckeyeThon at Ohio State University. McCartney attended dance marathon conferences and collaborated with other organizations that host “Thons” to come up with ideas and strategies to make HootaThon a reality.
He then organized with the nine other executive committee members to begin fundraising and planning an event that would be a year in the making.
“Whenever [my sister] spoke about college, all she talked about was BuckeyeThon,” McCartney said. “I knew that when I came to Temple that was what I wanted to do. None of [this] would be happening if the nine other [committee members] weren’t as amazing as they are.”
The committee began planning the event by gathering support from the student community. Students can get involved either as dancers or ‘virtual dancers,’ who don’t have to attend the event but contribute to promotion. Temple alumni can also register to participate as alumni dancers.
Dancers each donate $15 to participate and then have a goal of raising an additional $100 dollars to donate to Child’s Life.
“I am so excited to fundraise and keep setting my goal higher,” HootaThon participant and junior marketing major Alex Santos said. “Right now, it’s set at $1,500 dollars. I would love to raise it. I have already raised $404 through social media and summer fundraising.”
Virtual dancers make the same commitment, though they are not required to dance at the event itself.
Temple alumni perform the same tasks as dancers.
Advertising on Facebook, the HootaThon website, the Student Center and around campus has bolstered student support for the event and HootaThon has nearly reached max capacity for dancers in Mitten Hall. Though priority registration is closed, students can still register through the HootaThon website.
“It’s amazing to know that the students are just as interested as I am,” McCartney said. “It’s really inspiring.”
Participating students will stand for 12 hours straight, which McCartney said “seems like a long time, and is a long time.” However, there will be food, games, activities and inspirational stories from the families of children being treated at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, as well as from Temple students who are childhood cancer survivors.
“During high school I suffered a serious head injury and I eventually ended up at [The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia],” freshman biology major and HootaThon committee member Alex Swade said. “The Child’s Life department made my stay a lot more comfortable than it could have been. This is just one way that I can help out the kids that are in the same position that I was in.”
HootaThon is the culminating event of the organization’s efforts, but smaller events such as HootaThon’s Free Food and Fun Friday held Sept. 27 in the Student Center help fund the event and raise awareness. Sponsors such as Mars Chocolate, Temple Student Alumni Association Hoot Squad, Wawa, Philadelphia Water Ice, Richmond’s Ice Cream and Body Armor have donated product and money to help make the event possible.
“The whole purpose of the event is to stand for all the kids that can’t,” McCartney said. “The kids go through traumatic experiences that could be six weeks, six months or their whole lifetime. With everything they go through, we can sacrifice [by] standing for 12 hours.”
Aside from dancing without rest for 12 hours, the organization’s goal is to raise one dollar per every Temple student, which would total $27,000. All proceeds will be donated to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, one of the nation’s largest pediatric oncology facilities. Of the 17 million children affected by childhood cancer, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia treats 1.2 million patients.
“Our mission is to allow every child at [The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia] to have the childhood they deserve,” McCartney said.
Lora Strum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.