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UofSC Dance Marathon Rises to the Challenges of the Pandemic – UofSC News & Events

The University of South Carolina's Largest Student Philanthropy, Dance Marathon,
will host its Main Event this Saturday, February 27, just like every year since 1999.
However, as with so much in 2020-21, this year's event will see a little different.

The event, which concludes a year-long fundraising effort to support the Child Life
program at Prisma Health Children's Hospital, has traditionally taken place at Strom
Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center, with students huddled in a gym for a day of
dancing. Dance Marathon attracted more than 2,000 participating students each of the last
three years, raising more than $ 1 million for children each time.

That approach may not work in 2021 with pandemic security restrictions, but the cause
remains, and the need for funds is more urgent than ever. Therefore, the student leaders
came into action as of last summer, and spent nine months working to find a way.

“We realized that COVID wouldn't go away in time, but the kids are going to need us now
more than ever,” says Caroline Selinger, an early childhood education student who
serving as vice president of productions for Dance Marathon. this year. "We started
by looking at how we could offer a safe but fun event."

The Dance Marathon team consulted with university president Bob Caslen and his pandemic
leadership team, then with Russell House and campus recreation staff as plans
to take shape began, finding enthusiastic support at every step.

“They have been fantastic working with them and they are very willing to help us,” says Selinger.

Saturday's 2021 Main Event will be held at Russell House and Blatt Field, with participants
split between the two locations and taking turns coming and going. Everyone's change
Dancing all day is important, but necessary to guarantee safety. Students who have
raised the most money this year prior to the Main Event were given the first choice of

I have a choice to leave, but those kids don't, so I never would.

– Caroline Selinger, vice president of productions for Dance Marathon

Selinger and her team, all students, have also dedicated time to carefully planning where
students will be, fixing social distancing and masks, and successfully finding
partners to donate items like hand sanitizer.

A lot of hours have been put into planning, and every student involved
is an unpaid volunteer. They continue because they know the importance of the cause.
Prisma Health's child life department works to make the hospital experience less scary
and unpleasant for children, to make it easier for them and their families to get through by
times that are incredibly difficult.

COVID-19 has only made those times more difficult, with children struggling to understand
why people wear masks and why they cannot receive visitors. Child Life Specialists
can be there to keep them company and explain. Many similar departments laid off
staff over the past year, but Prisma Health Children's Hospital did not, despite not
billing families for services. The difference for Columbia hospital was
funding provided by Dance Marathon.

“With a decrease in surgeries and other procedures that hospitals depend on for revenue,
we have tearfully watched how many of our peer-to-peer child life programs across our state
and the nation has had to cut children's hours and programming due to lack
of funding, "wrote Christy Fink, Director of Child Life at Prisma Health Children's Hospital.
to the Dance Marathon team. a pandemic when hospitals have
forced to limit or exclude parents at the bedside, child life services have been reduced.
Thanks to you, we have not had to face the unimaginable difficulties of reducing the team
members and services ".

That letter has kept many of the students even more motivated than ever, as have
links to childhood illnesses.

“I have a very sweet little 3-year-old friend, Louise, who was diagnosed with cancer
in 2019,” says Selinger, who hopes to become a child life specialist. "There they have
Sometimes I have wanted to stop because the work has become too difficult, but Louise cannot
stop. She has to keep fighting, like all these children. I have the option to walk away,
But those kids don't, so I would never do it. "

For the kids, alumni, and everyone else who can't be there in person on Saturday, Main
The event will be streamed live online, starting at 10 a.m. and will conclude with the disclosure.
of the total fundraising for this year at 10 p.m.

As always, all money raised for the University of South Carolina Dance Marathon is kept local, supporting children. Selinger says support has never
mattered more.

"Every dollar counts. In a year where that's all people can give, it makes
a big difference."

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