Dakotathon 2014 Coverage
14 mins read

Dakotathon 2014 Coverage

9 a.m. – The 2014 Dakotathon ended April 6 in the place it started, the Muenster University Center’s ballroom with students, “miracle children” and their families all in attendance.

The major reveal for the closing ceremony was the amount raised with these year’s event. Dakotathon fundraised $56,205 for the Children’s Miracle Network, $6,ooo more than the year before.

And with its close, the Dakotathon clock was restarted to 365 days to go until next year’s event.

5:30 a.m.- Going on 20 hours without sleep, Dakotathon members were still dancing Sunday morning.

Glow sticks lit up the Muenster University Center ballroom as Dakotathon dancers  entered the rave portion of the 24-hour event. Participants danced along to popular songs such as Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” and Pitbull and Ke$ha’s song “Timber.” Jumping up and down and waving their glow sticks the participants tried to catch another wave of energy.

“I was getting tired at first, but then we started the rave, and it got me pumped up,” sophomore Kendra Nelsen said.

Junior Jozie Einrem says that the rave helped her keep awake.

“(I’m feeling) pretty good now that I started dancing. I was getting to my low point where I was going to fall asleep, but now I’m pumped up, ready for the morning to just be over with kind of,” she said.

After the rave, Dakotathon participants danced a morale dance and played the game ships and sailors.

To take up time before breakfast, a morale dance elimination round was played where all Dakotathon dancers danced a pre-learned routine. The winner of this dance would have the honor of the Dakotathon Spirit Cape being bestowed upon them.

As the dance progressed, executive Dakotathon members walked through the throngs of dancers, eliminating the ones who were falling out of routine. Soon it was down to the final five. Deciding to hold off on the final round, executive members postponed the showdown until after breakfast.

Sleep deprived and sweaty, Dakotathon members slowly filed out of the ballroom to get drinks, to eat breakfast, and to prepare themselves for the final leg of their 24-hour dance marathon.

12:30 a.m. – The time doesn’t matter. Despite it being the early hours of the morning, Dakotathon dancers, executive members and families echoed off of the DakotaDome walls, yelling, “Happy DM!”

To kick off Sunday, several DM participants took part in a Fear Factor competition. The game consisted of four levels, weeding out players each time.

For the first challenge, the contestants had two bowls in front of them, one full of dog food. In order to move on, the participants had to be one of the first 10 who moved the dog food with only their mouths from one bowl to the other.

Those who moved on then had to pick an egg from a carton. Five of them were regular and five were hard-boiled. The players then had to smash the egg over their head, and whoever didn’t choose a hard-boiled egg was eliminated.

Moving on to the next round, the five participants had to be one of the first three to finish drinking a mysterious concoction. After the final three were determined, the executive team revealed what it was made of: mustard, ranch, hoisen sauce, orange juice, red beans and tuna.

And for the last round, the finalists were given a can of cat food. Whoever was the last standing after the other two gave up would be the winner.

After actually eating the entire can, sophomore morale caption Kirsty Longley became the Fear Factor champion. She said the competition wasn’t too bad, and the smells were the worst part.

Following the competition, executive members taught the dancers additional portions to continue building off of the big dance and working towards that 24-hour mark.

9:30 p.m.- Dakotathon participants performed a morale dance to a mix of popular songs at the Vermillion High School gym after watching a fireworks display.

Between the dancing and games, Katie McKenney, 22, shared her personal story about her medical struggles and how the Children’s Miracle Network helped her family.

When McKenney was 11 years old, she had chronic migraines. One day,while playing kickball, she noticed that she was seeing double.  Her mother took her to the hospital, where doctors gave her medication for a migraine.

For nine days following the hospital, she laid on her couch; unable to function.  Visiting the hospital once again, doctors diagnosed her with Pseudotumor Cerebri, a false brain tumor, which causes spinal fluid to build up in the brain.

“So, my brain was hitting the top of my skull,” said McKenney.

McKenney spent one month in the hospital. The doctors tried to treat her with different medications, but she was allergic to every one of them.

“I got third degree burns all over on my body. The skin just peeled off in layers and my hands oozed . I couldn’t wear clothes, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t do anything,” said McKenne.

Eventually, doctors had to place a shunt to relieve pressure. For a few months she was fine. After six months, however, her shunt broke during a basketball game. The replacement shunt also broke.

In total, this happened nine times. She said doctors were baffled by her case. She was first sent to the  Mayo Clinic to be treated, to the University of Minnesota  and then to a hospital in Salt Lake City. From age 11 to 16, every three to six months she was visiting a hospital for a month at a time.

At 16, her body, without explanation,  started to regulate itself. But McKenne said her condition could come back at any time.

During her many surgeries through the years, McKenney said the Children’s Miracle Network helped her and her family in multiple ways.

“They helped me when I was sick a lot. They helped with getting my parents food tickets so they could eat in the cafeteria so they could stay up with me. They helped plan all the travel for doctor visits, and helped us with find the Ronald McDonald House which allowed us to find hotels that had free busing to the hospitals,” McKenney said.

McKenney is currently a junior at Black Hills State University pursuing a degree in special education with a minor in psychology. After college, she said she plans on becoming a child life specialist and hopes to work for the Children’s Miracle Network. She is also engaged to be married next month.

7:00 p.m. – The two Minnesotan pianist walked out onto the stage in Aalfs Auditorium to the applause of a crowd made up of kids, teenagers and adults.

Dan Satterberg and Jon Li quickly sat at their glossy black, classical pianos and began to play the theme song to “SpongeBob SquarePants,” which many of the audience members quickly began to sing-along to.  When the song was finished, Li laughed and said, “I don’t think we have ever opened a show to that before.”

The attendance to the Dueling Pianos was welcomed to the stage and could fill out requests for the pianists to perform.  Children rushed forward during the Dakotathon event April 5 and began to fill out the small pieces of colored paper. While Dan sorted through the requests, Jon began to play “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison.

During the song, he would ask certain groups of people (brown eyed, blue eyed, green eyed) to sing the “sha-la-la-la-la-la-di-da” section of the song.  Li eventually called out for his fellow Asian-Americans to sing-a-long, which one member in the middle of the audience jumped to his feet and began to sing.  Li jumped off stage, and gave the University of South Dakota student a double high-five.

The two continued the performance with requests of Elton John, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Disney songs, country and early 2000’s, such as Backstreet Boys.

Many “miracle children” were in attendance and called up on stage to dance along to the music. Some of the individuals that helped organize Dakotathon, such as Ashley Nelson, were called up on stage to do an interpretive dance to a song from “The Little Mermaid.”

By the end of the performance, Li and Satterberg busted out “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, and the whole audience got to their feet and not only surrounded the stage but climbed up it to dance and sing with the two pianist.

1:45 p.m. – For senior Ashley Nelson, co-overall chair of Dakotathon, the yearly charitable event is the same as it always has been, only under a different name.

This year, Dance Marathon was renamed Dakotathon. Nelson said this change was made to reflect the names of other South Dakotan Dance Marathons, such as South Dakota State University’s Stateathon.

“It’s a way for us to be our own little entity,” Nelson said. “Sometimes the word dance scares people.”

Nelson said the change brought about initial confusion, but by the second semester students knew Dance Marathon and Dakotathon were the same event.

In addition to the name change, this year’s Dakotathon also had different morale dances than previous years. Each year features a different main event. This year’s main event featured a set of dueling pianos.

However, the fundraising goal of the event, $60,000, is the same as last year. Nelson said only one member of the executive committee knows how much money the event has raised so far. The final amount will be revealed tomorrow during the event’s closing ceremony.

“Hopefully we’ll beat it,” Nelson said. “We’re headed in the right direction.”

But Nelson’s favorite part of Dakotathon doesn’t come from the events, but from the individuals who make it a tradition to attend the event.

“A lot of the families come every year, but their stories never get old,” Nelson said. “It reminds you why you’re here.”

Noon – Dakotathon was a sea of colored shirts of blue, green, red and pink. Each represented the role for a participating event member.

Blue shirts designated the executive leaders, like Mark DiMaria, who has been apart of the 24-hour fundraiser for three years. Mark said he wanted to be part of Dakotathon, because “it’s a great cause, and it helps a lot of families, it’s great to see a lot of participation from the students as well.”

As for the other colored shirts, red and pink stood for the dancers and morale captains, while green designated the people who have families of the “miracle children.”

No matter their shirts though, all were encouraged to participate in games like “ships and sailors,” much like Simon says, watching USD Idol contestants perform or listening to the families talk about their journeys that led them to the Children’s Miracle Network.

9 a.m. –  Seventh grader Emma Bader lights up on the Dakotathon stage April 5. She smiles, laughs and hugs those around her like they were members of her own family.

But when she was first born — only 26 weeks into her mother’s pregnancy — her parents did not know if they would ever see their daughter in the Muenster University Center ballroom, yelling “Happy DM” to the Dakotathon crowd cheering before her.

” They used to call her the wild one in the (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit),” said Hope Bader, her mother.

Emma Bader had five major surgeries before the age of five, and at four months old, doctors told her parents she was deaf.

Hope Bader said her daughter was a fighter, and the doctors would say to her “You don’t know how lucky you are that she has attitude,” because it gave her strength to become the girl she is today, participating in activities like basketball, track, orchestra, taekwondo — and Dakotathon.

The 24-hour event at the University of South Dakota, known nationally as Dance Marathon, is a student-run philanthropy held around the country that raises money for the Children’s Miracle Network.

The event’s fundraising dollars go to Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls, the region’s only Children’s Miracle Network hospital. USD Dakotathon is also the largest student-run philanthropy in the state. Last year’s Dakotathon raised over $50,000.

The philanthropy is in its 17th year at the university, and is filled with games, dancing and more for the “miracle children” and registered USD students.

Junior Allie Buss, a morale captain for the fundraiser, is in her third year of participating in Dakotathon.

“It’s a day to celebrate all the kids and what they’ve overcome in their lives. We get to hear the families’ stories — it’s moving,” Buss said.

Volante coverage will continue throughout the day as Dakotathon moves around Vermillion.

Photo: “Miracle children” make their way through a tunnel formed by Dakotathon participants during the opening ceremony April 5 in the Muenster University Center.  (Megan Card/The Volante)