Dance Marathon, which is coming up this weekend, is one of the most highlighted events on Hope’s campus. For those students who are not aware, Dance Marathon is a 24-hour dance competition to raise money for children at Helen Devos Children’s Hospital. However, not all students really understand how their money is being used and if Dance Marathon actually helps these children and their families.
The funds for Dance Marathon are donated to the Helen DeVos Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. The hospital receives no direct state aid, so it relies completely upon private donations. Several of the essential treatment programs there rely solely on philanthropy. These include Child Life Services, Kidney Dialysis and Transplants, Childhood Cancer and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The DeVos Hospital has the fifth largest Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the United States. One hundred percent of funds raised through Dance Marathon are donated directly to programs at the hospital. The Helen DeVos hospital is also unique in that it is committed to not denying treatment to a single child, so that no child is ever turned away.
One part of Dance Marathon that makes it especially impactful to many students is the opportunity to bond with Miracle Kids. “People form absolutely incredible relationships with the families that they are paired with,” says Student Life Coordinator Katie DeKoster. One Miracle Kid, Hayden, has consistently been in the hospital for a month receiving treatment. Dream Team members have been making frequent visits to sit with him and play video games together, which allows his mother to have a quick break from staying with him. In another example of the bonds students make, the Fraternal Society hosted a GoFundMe to help raise money for some immediate costs that needed to be covered for a Miracle Child. While some relationships with students and Miracle Kids last for an academic year, others can remain strong over a long period of time. DeKoster says, “I was just talking to Connor Gentry, a director from 2018-2019 and he had the Neiferts (a family with two Miracle Kiddos, Libby and Ella) over for dinner a week ago.” The Miracle Kids will all be present at Dance Marathon.
The money raised through Dance Marathon doesn’t go only or directly to the Miracle Kids and their families. Instead, all the money is sent to the hospital, where it is used for equipment and treatments that directly benefit all children there. The Miracle Families for the program aren’t selected or singled out over others. Instead, all families whose children are receiving treatment at the hospital are invited to be a part of the program. Families volunteer to be included, and no family that wants to be a Miracle Family is ever turned away. Most of the families that do participate find out about the program through the hospital, while others learn about it from other Miracle Families. The Miracle Kids program encompasses a wide range of ages, from toddlers to high school students. In fact, three high school students this year just graduated out of the program.
Dance Marathon is a national campaign to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals around the country. Cassidy Merten (’23), the marketing director for Dance Marathon, explains, “The Marathon is completely student run, and around one-third of our campus participates.” Last year’s Dance Marathon had a record high of 1,076 participants. This year 945 students have registered so far, and Dance Marathon hopes to see more. This annual event is the largest student-led event at Hope, alongside Orientation and Spring Fling. This year, Hope College is representing 25 different Miracle Kids. The Marathon last year raised $340,172 for the hospital. Six other high schools and colleges in the area also put on annual Marathons for the Helen DeVos Hospital, including Calvin College.
The Children’s Miracle Network Hospital program has over 170 member hospitals. The program was created in 1983 to fill the gap in treatment coverage left by Medicaid and insurance programs, which do not fully cover the cost of the children’s care. These hospitals are critical to the health of children across North America. More than ten million children enter a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in North America every year, and one in ten children in North America are treated by a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital every year. Each of these hospitals relies on donor help, not just the Helen DeVos Hospital.
Cassidy Merten (’23) says of the event, “It is so much bigger than any of us—the Marathon allows college students to make an impact that is so much more than themselves. It brings the Hope and Holland community together in an incredibly unique way.”