By Chasity Hale
Stanford University Dance Marathon (SUDM) is an annual philanthropic event that raises money for health-related causes. Students dance for 24 consecutive hours while raising money to donate. In the past, SUDM has donated proceeds to organizations such as FACE AIDS (2008) and Partners in Health Rwanda (2014-2016), organizations which seek to provide communities in Rwanda with better medical care through fundraising. This year, the recipient of 100 percent of the proceeds from Dance Marathon is the Bass Center at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital (LPCH), a research and treatment center for children diagnosed with cancer and blood diseases.
Viewers of the popular television series “Gilmore Girls” might be familiar with the Stars Hollow Dance Marathon, where characters Rory and Lorelai Gilmore grappled with drama, sleepiness and egg salad sandwiches. I knew the setup of SUDM would be very different from that, but I was still unsure what it would be like.
On Saturday, Feb. 17 at around 8 p.m., I arrived at the Arrillaga Outdoor Education and Recreation Center (AOERC), where the event was held, just in time for the first student group performances. The event had commenced at noon that same day, and would last until noon the following day. Colored lights painted the space deep blue and bright pink, and the walls, speckled with tiny, neon green lights, resembled a starry night sky. In the front center of the room, there was a stage with a large, white projection screen behind it. The images displayed on the screen changed from the SUDM logo to images that corresponded with the scheduled events. The AOERC became various different venues throughout the night, changing from music festival to dance studio within minutes. The registered dancers, many of whom were dorm captains and members of Greek life, brought unwavering energy to dance floor. Some sported festival attire, like multi-colored fanny packs, tutus and shiny leggings. SUDM was nothing like the one in Gilmore Girls — the atmosphere was zany and fun, filled with supportive marathoners.
The scheduled events were varied, ranging from events such as laser tag and a Swingtime workshop to student performances by groups such as Urban Styles and Bhangra. At 11 p.m., large crowds of students showed up to see the event headliner, Grey, an electronic/pop musical duo. Flashing white strobe lights and Grey’s electric performance further energized the dancers. There were also educational segments, like the hour-long presentation on community perspectives on healthcare, and meals, including the wonderful dinner earlier in the night, where students had the opportunity to meet with the beneficiaries of the event, the “patient heroes” of LPCH.
Medical expenses such as lab tests, drug costs and hospital stays accumulate, serving as financial obstacles to families managing the costs of cancer treatment. But LPCH does not turn away families because of an inability to pay. The center is dedicated to health equity, which is why each year they offer uncompensated care to 2,600 children diagnosed with cancer and blood diseases. They also conduct pediatric research and provide families with psychological support, fulfilling their mission of “heal[ing] humanity through science and compassion” in various ways.
Though the latest iteration of SUDM has ended, the stories of this year’s “patient heroes” are still available online.
Contact Chasity Hale at cah70352 ‘at’ stanford.edu.