Top 10 College Dance Marathons

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Who knew a little whip and nae nae could help those in need? Whether it’s through fundraising, participation or time, dance marathons are a serious commitment to helping others. Hundreds of students bring their best moves to dance hours on end with the goal of raising money for charities, hospitals and children in need. some serious dance moves on the floor to support great causes with the 10 best dance marathons in the nation.

10. University of Connecticut

Not even lasting an entire day—HuskyTHON runs for 18 hours—students at UConn have raised more than $1.7 million to help children in need. That’s enough money to pay for all of our tuitions at the most expensive school in the nation (I’m no mathematician, so maybe you shouldn’t take my word on that). Either way, $1.7 million can go a long way for all the kids in CMNH. In 2015, the mere 2,419 participants fundraised through canning, donation matching and popular events like ZumbaTHON, Spin-a-THON and walk-a-dog-thons. “Dancing is just one way to try to make it so much more fun for [the kids] and just more meaningful and enjoyable just so they know that there’s so many people out there that are rooting for them,” HuskyTHON dancer Andrea Lorenzo said. It’s obvious that UConn Huskies go to infinity and beyond to leave a lasting impression on the lives of families throughout the entire city.

9. Ohio State University

Ohio State’s BuckeyeThon is a 24-hour dance marathon where the Buckeyes fundraise through social media campaigns, hot chocolate sales and restaurant fundraisers. But OSU students don’t stop there. They even sell textbooks and donate the money earned to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH). Ohio State’s dancing efforts have helped 4,000 recipients by raising more than $3.7 million since it all began in 2001. “I’ve never felt anything less than complete gratitude and humility looking out at the 3,000-plus crowd at a BuckeyeThon closing ceremony,” Raquel Sain, lead master of ceremonies and perseveres, said. “Dance marathons are tough, but the money you raise and the lives you’re able to touch are completely priceless.”

8. University of California, Los Angeles

UCLA’s dance marathon has helped the Pediatric AIDS Coalition (PAC) raise over $4 million since 2003. PAC Executive Director Minali Mohinda said she always looks for new and innovative ways to keep dancers motivated throughout the marathon. Mohinda has used martial arts and yoga to infuse energy into dancers’ routines. Let’s face it—after a certain number of hours, your body will inevitably get exhausted. And Bruins are on their feet for 26 hours. PAC fundraises through corporate sponsorship for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Camp Kindle and the UCLA AIDS Institute. The dance marathon gathers a large following with over 7,000 participants. “Most people don’t know about [the cause], [but they] leave with a better understanding,” Mohinda said. Who knew dancing could raise this much money in such a short amount of time?

7. University of North Carolina

Running an operation like a dance marathon can be a difficult undertaking, especially on a campus as large as UNC. Campus rules often slow down the work of student orgs. It’s amazing that this dance marathon functions with over 2,000 students independently from the university for 24 hours. “All of our fundraising goes to our nonprofit, which is Carolina for Kids foundation, and we decide what we choose to do with it. We don’t have any adult supervision beyond [that],” Carolina for the Kids Executive Director Meagan Barger said. “We have a faculty advisor who helps us out a lot, but we’re completely student run, which I think is really unique about us.” Barger also emphasized the emotional support the marathon offers and she loves the financial freedom this organization brings to families. All fundraising efforts through initiatives like canning, canvassing and letter campaigns have given the center more than $4.28 million since the marathon began over a decade ago.

6. Florida State University

With more than one beneficiary, FSU’s dance marathon benefits CMNH and the FSU College of Medicine Pediatric Outreach Program. FSU’s dance marathon Executive Director Felicia Armstrong participated during her four years of college and loves the sense of community the marathon brings to both students and families. “[It’s about being] a part of something bigger than yourself,” she said. And it’s definitely bigger than any of us with over 1,000 students participating in letter-writing campaigns and sponsorships with local businesses, like Insomnia Cookies, to raise money. The marathon has raised more than $6 million for the kids since 1996. These Noles love grooving for a good cause.

5. University of Florida

UF’s DM is a 26.2-hour dance marathon where almost 7,000 participants raise money through individual fundraising pages, social media initiatives and donations from friends and families. Over $10 million raised by dancing Gators has benefited UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, a CMNH hospital, since 1995. Sophomore Shannon Cea danced for her sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and loves dancing for a good cause, even if it’s challenging. “The hardest part is dancing itself,” she said. No kiddin’. With so many Gators dancing their tails off, UF’s DM has all the potential to make the campus Snap Story and make the dancers low-key famous.

4. Northwestern University

Student organizations at Northwestern University are dedicated to more than just their studies. Northwestern Wildcats know how to give back, hosting a 30-hour dance marathon every year and raising money through canning, letter-writing campaigns and bake sales. “I was able to see the reaction of everyone in the tent and take part in that big, big moment. It was really incredible,” Finance Committee Co-Chair Alicia Kranjc said in describing how she was able to get a sneak peek of the grand total raised before the spectators and dancers at the DM. With only 1,000 students participating, the Wildcats have raised an additional $16 million from before we were born way back in 1975. Northwestern’s beneficiaries change yearly, but this year Blessings in a Backpack and the Evanston Community Foundation received the generous donations.

3. Indiana University

Indiana senior and dancer Jennifer Cone feels IUDM helps students grow personally. “It is about finding the strength in your hardest moments from 5-year-old kids who teach you the meaning of bravery,” she said. “It is so much more than just 36 hours—IUDM is family.” The IUDM family is made up of 3,000 students who dance for a total of 36 hours and have exceeded $24 million in proceeds raised since 1991. The Riley White Center for Infectious Diseases and Riley Hospital for Children use these funds to help families during difficult times. Where do they get money? It’s collected through corporate sponsorships with local news stations and businesses, letter-writing and canning. So grab a can, find a Walmart and start raising money with your fellow Hoosiers.

2. University of Iowa

University of Iowa’s 24-hour dance marathon has 2,500 student participants whose generous sponsorship has helped raise funds for University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. Shimmying strong for 21 years, Iowa’s DM has collected almost $19 million. Executive Director Morgan Kennedy has been involved in the dance marathon for her entire college career and explained the unique role proximity plays for University of Iowa’s DM. “I think something really special that we have is that our University of Iowa Children’s Hospital is literally just right across the river, so we really are able to see the impact that we’re making, and I think it’s a big drive in helping people fundraise and helping the donors to see where their money actually is going and the difference that it’s making,” Kennedy said. I mean, who could say no to the adorable faces of little kids? Go turn the music up and get dancing.

1. Penn State University

PSU’s THON better have a bumpin’ playlist to last all 46 hours. Everyone gets tired of “Hotline Bling” after the third play in an hour’s time. The Penn State DJ deserves an award for attempting to satisfy the music tastes of all 15,000-plus students in attendance. Dancing together in colorful tutus and custom-made T-shirts, the excitement in the Bryce Jordan Center definitely makes the 46 hours fly by. The contagious energy in the room energizes everyone for pulling all-nighters longer than that time you had your orgo exam.  Dancer Relations Captain Rick Melli is passionate for the cause and for the kids. “Emotional support really does get overshadowed at times, but I do think it is just as important as the financial support we’re providing,” he said. Proceeds go to the Four Diamonds Fund and Penn State Hershey Medical Center. Since 1977, student volunteers extreme fundraise through canning, committees, corporate sponsorship and alternative fundraisers. Their efforts out dance other schools by raising over $127 million.

Updated on October 18, 2016 to reorder schools to reflect new fundraising total for the University of Connecticut. 

Rachel is a Penn State University senior studying print journalism. She loves John Hughes movies, Audrey Hepburn and all things travel.

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