Marissa Paiano, special to wtop.com
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — A little after midnight on March 9, students streamed out of Ritchie Coliseum at the University of Maryland- College Park.
Simone Jensen, a freshman at the university got into her mom’s car, exhausted.
Thirteen hours earlier, Jensen walked into the coliseum for the fifth annual Terp Thon, a 12-hour dance marathon charity event that about 1,000 students participated in.
“I called my mom to pick me up afterwards because I was so drained, my face paint was smudged and sleeping in my own bed sounded like heaven,” Jensen said. “I’d never danced so much in my life.”
Participants had to stand up or dance for the entire event to represent the 12- hour long nurses’ shifts at the hospital, according to the event’s website.
“I only realized how repetitive my dance moves were after I’d been doing them for 12-hours,” said Jensen.
After a few hours, people were starting to drag a little bit.
“It got tiring, but the speakers and sports teams did a really good job of pumping us back up. The hardest part was waiting in line to get dinner, then once you had your food you finally realized you couldn’t sit down to eat it,” said Jensen.
The university’s football and soccer teams came to the event to keep people motivated to dance. Torrey Smith, a Baltimore Raven’s wide receiver and university alumnus, even made an appearance.
In an effort to keep people enthusiastic and engaged, a committee choreographed a “morale dance.”
The committee taught the participants a little part of this dance every hour and then at the end of the night, everyone put it together and danced in unison.
Each student also had to raise $100 in order to participate in the event. “The money benefits Children’s National Health System in D.C., our local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital,” said Terp Thon’s executive director, Amy Vaccaro.
Students got creative while raising money, from canning on the streets of D.C. to sending hand-written notes to relatives to ask for their support.
There were also different ways the organization caused participants to raise money while at the event.
Participants were broken up into color-coded teams and if someone on their team got sent to “jail,” a roped off area where “prisoners” had to wear all orange, their teammates had to raise a certain amount of money to get them out.
Children who were treated or are in treatment at Children’s National and their families spoke at the event, sharing their stories about what they have been through and why Terp Thon is so special to them.
“While hearing some of the stories was sad, it really helped me to understand why this cause is so important,” said Shannon Rickler, a first year Terp Thon participant.
At about 11:30 p.m., the executive board revealed the total amount of money raised: $429,012.89. Not only was it an increase from last year but it broke the fifth year fundraising record.
Terp Thon also became one of the top 10 dance marathons in the nation, according to Vaccaro.
There were additional booths at the event allowing students to donate in medical related ways.
Jensen took cotton swabs of the inside of her check for the hospital to keep. If they find she is a match to a patient who needs bone marrow, they can contact her to ask for a donation.
“Although I could still feel it in my legs the next day, it was an amazing event and atmosphere and I can’t wait to do it the next three years,” said Jensen.
Dance marathons have been an increasing presence across the nation. Pennsylvania State University has held one since 1973, while George Washington University held their first one this year in March.