Updated at 9:50 a.m., 4/14/19. Lauren Soulek and Lexi Kerzman contributed to this story.
Members of Dakotathon fell into tears and hugs on the floor of the Sanford Coyote Sports Center after seeing their final amount raised for the Children’s Miracle Network: $208,732.19.
For the 22nd consecutive year, Dakothon and its 700 members kicked off the 24-hour Dance Marathon (DM) on Saturday morning.
DM— or the “Day Of” —is the capstone event to the organization’s fundraising campaign for the Children’s Miracle Network, beginning in August. Last year, Dakotathon raised over $184,000. This year’s goal was $200,000.
Saturday – 9:00 a.m.
Students gathered in the SCSC to launch the 24-hour Dance Marathon. Jaxon and Jaren Scheff, two miracle children, spoke to Dakotathon members about their condition, coined “Scheff Boys Syndrome” because they’re the only two known cases. Combined, they’ve had 27 surgeries and urged members to raise $27 for miracle children like them.
Libby Bullerdick, Dakotathon external co-chair and a senior at USD, said DM is her favorite part of Dakotathon.
“It’s a day we get to donate to our kids. It’s what we worked for the entire year,” she said.
Bullerdick said staying on your feet for 24 hours straight requires: “Really comfy shoes, a change of shoes, a lot of energy drinks and a lot of morale.”
Emily Ruzhitsky, a sophomore nursing major and Daktotathon’s hospitality chair, said she joined the executive team to try and give the miracle kids “the best day of their lives.”
“The whole day is centered around them and making sure they have fun, it’s their day,” she said.
Saturday – 12:00 p.m.
The Dakotathon congregation moved to the Ringleader Court for “Kid’s Got Talent,” a talent show put on by the miracle children.
Performances included singing, dancing, a cello-stringing, cup stacking and a “Charlie Shuffle” led by the Scheff brothers.
Jacob Meyer, Dakotathon event fundraising co-chair, said planning for a day full of events began in late August.
“Everyone does their part on the exec board and then we have awesome help from the rest of the people on the leadership team,” he said. “We get to see all the families and bring campus together for a great event.”
Meyer said Dakotathon showcases how students can make a difference in the world surrounding them.
“Once you realize how little it takes to make an actual difference in someone else’s life, it’s a really fulfilling feeling. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Saturday – 2:30 p.m.
Students from Sioux Falls Roosevelt High School visited the SCSC to reveal their fundraising total from their first ever FTK (For The Kids) Week. Students sold balloons, shirts and brownies to raise $2,044.66.
Two miracle children, Ethan Hoogedorm and Collins Kassin, spoke to the crowd about their conditions (with assistance from their mothers)
Ethan Hoogedorn is battling nevus, a condition that causes freckle-like splotches on the surface of the skin.
Collins Kassins is battling cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects the lungs and digestive system.
Hoogedorn said his favorite part of DM was “hanging with the college kids.”
Saturday – 6:30 p.m.
Miracle Families competed against players from the Coyote men’s and women’s basketball teams and the Miracle Kids dominated the Coyotes.
After the basketball game, the winners pied the competitors in the face. The losing Coyotes took the pie with smiles on their faces.
Saturday – 9:45 p.m.
The Dakotathon team and Miracle families celebrated life at their candlelight vigil.
The group first honored three previous members of Dakotathon: Caitlyn Carmen, Shawn Kunkel and Melissa Peskey.
After a moment of silence for the former members, two audio clips from parents whose children passed away.
“Katelyn knew that one day she would pass away, but she didn’t let that scare her, she didn’t let that define her, Katelyn’s illness never defined her. it might have enhanced the part of her that lived every day to the fullest,” Nicole Tennant, mother of Katelyn Tennant, said in the audio clip.
They also honored the lives of 11 other miracle children who are “dancing in our hearts.”
The vigil ended in a moment of silence and finally sparklers to celebrate life.
Sunday – 9:00 a.m.
On the main floor of the SCSC Sunday morning, miracle children flipped numbered signs in front of the Dakotathon crowd, revealing the final amount of money raised for the Children’s Miracle Network: $208,732.19.
“Words don’t describe what just happened,” said Quincy Score, a fifth-year business administration major and Dakotathon event fundraising co-chair. “$200,000 in South Dakota is unreal.”
Score said his freshman year, the final amount was just upwards of $84,000 at the end of DM. Dakotathon raised half of that in one day to reach their goal.
“Our advisors kind of creeped us out. They were like ‘we need a quick push.’ They were just messing with us the entire time,” he said.
Between USD’s Dakotaton and South Dakota State’s State-a-thon, almost $390,000 was raised for the Children’s Miracle Network, which will fund medical costs for children at the Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D.