Mizzou students hit the floor during MizzouThon, a fundraising dance marathon supporting area pediatric patients and their families.
MizzouThon is the largest student-run organization on campus that works throughout the year to provide emotional and financial support to families at the MU Women and Children's Hospital. But to me, MizzouThon is a family.
Every year in the middle of March we host a main event — 13.1 hours of dancing — to celebrate our amazing miracle families whom we come to know and love throughout the year. It’s also the time we reveal our fundraising total to the public as we work to reach our $1 million pledge.
The growth MizzouThon has each year is phenomenal. Every year we are able to include more miracle families, recruit more dancers and raise more funds. This year was no exception. We worked with 20 miracle families, recruited more than 1,000 dancers and raised a record $276,000. All in the spirit of #FTK (for the kids).
Being a member of the morale team is one of my favorite parts of serving on leadership. We spend weeks preparing a five-minute-long dance to teach our participants throughout the main event as well as crafting festive “spirit sticks” to pass out to enthusiastic dancers. It's our job to keep the morale up throughout the event and motivate dancers to keep going even when our feet are aching and we don’t think we can stand anymore.
We are awestruck by the bravery shown by each of our miracle kids. They have had to face a different start to life than most of us, and they deserve the chance to have as normal a childhood as possible. Alongside every other dance marathon in the country, we’ll continue to dance until every kid has the right to be a kid.
The final fundraising number is revealed by members of MizzouThon leadership as confetti falls over the dancers at the end of the main event Sunday, March 13, 2016. This year was another record-breaker for the largest student-run philanthropy on campus — raising $276,664.11.
Sophomore Leah Hoelscher dances with one of MizzouThon’s Miracle Children, Declan Johnson, 9, in the middle of a cheering ring of dancers. Morale team members spend the 13.1 hours introducing the Miracle Families to dancers and boosting the dancers’ spirits.
Senior Erin Ehlers, shaves her boyfriend Aaron Warning's beard during the main event Saturday, March 12. Warning had spent 10 months growing out his beard, promising that if he surpassed his $1,000 fundraising goal he would shave it off for the kids.
Sean "Dogger" Miller laughs as he carries Miracle Child Bryce Edwards, 10, on his back. Bryce was born as a micropremie with his twin, Beau, and after a severe brain bleed, Bryce developed cerebral palsy.
Sophomore Ann Marie Metzendorf, internal recruitment leadership member and morale captain, has her hair cut by Sarah Godke.
Meg Adams, left, and Amanda Moy, both sophomore recruitment leadership members and morale captains for MizzouThon, decorate a sign for the jail station during setup at the Mizzou Rec Center Friday evening. Dancers could get pulled from the dance floor during the main event by Miracle Children and get stuck in jail. They would then have to fundraise their way out.
Preston Dynes and Alexis White, leadership members and morale captains for MizzouThon, detangle a string of Christmas lights to string up in a tent during set up Friday evening.
Silhouetted dancers and MizzouThon leadership members jump around on the main event's stage near the end of Power Hour.
Dancers jump around together during Power Hour at MizzouThon. Leadership members and morale captains threw around glow sticks for dancers to make glasses, bracelets and necklaces out of.
Mallory Strope, 6, holds her hand in the air with the sign for “I love you” while Cassidy-Rae Luebbering’s mom shares their story. Mallory is Miracle Child Connor Stope’s little sister.
From left, Declan Johnson, 8, and Beau Edwards, 10, sit in the middle of a ring of dancers that just finished dancing 13.1 hours for them and other children.
Sophomore Meg Adams, internal recruitment leadership member and morale captain, writes "I pledge to dance 13.1…" on a chalkboard Saturday morning.
Sophomore Hanna Yowell, external recruitment leadership member and morale captain, poses for a portrait before the main event Saturday. "Being a part of MizzouThon means the world to me," Yowell says. "These people have become my family that I know I'll have long after graduation."
Senior Carson Miller, vice president of recruitment for MizzouThon, applauds as other leadership members help to erect the jail station after attaching streamers for decoration Friday evening.
Sophomore Leah Hoelscher holds senior Amanda Gingrich as they cry together following a tribute video to Miracle Child Tommy, who passed away in November 2015.
Declan Johnson, 8, dances with his dad and MizzouThon leadership members Leah Hoelscher and Ann Marie Metzendorf on stage near the end of Power Hour.
MizzouThon leadership members carefully carry a banner across the gym at MizzouRec during setup Saturday morning. The banner allowed dancers to place a paper balloon under the amount of money they had raised.
Sophomore Billy Donley shows off his shiny silver bowtie and Mizzou-theme glasses (minus the glass) before MizzouThon’s main event Saturday morning. Donley is also Residence Hall Association president.
Sophomore Ann Marie Metzendorf, MizzouThon’s marketing strategist and morale captain, writes “For More Smiles” on sophomore Carina Cusumano’s hand upon arriving at the main event in Mizzou’s Rec Center Saturday morning. Dancers are encouraged to write why they dance on their hands and then pose for a photo for social media.
Senior Ellen Hinze, MizzouThon’s main event director, throws up the peace sign in front of the “I pledge to dance 13.1…” chalkboard. Hinze shaved her head last year and donated it to Children With Hair Loss. “Being able to make that decision to let go of my hair and give it to someone else… I felt beautiful knowing that I was empowering someone without hair to feel beautiful with mine,” Hinze says.
Dancers weave a conga line through the dance floor while taking a selfie.
From left, Dylan Perrone, Katherine Fraley and Rachel Richardson Zumba it out in the front row.
Senior Kelsey Cole, a leadership member for MizzouThon, reacts as senior Amanda Gingrich, also a leadership member, cuts off 20 inches of Cole's hair. The hair was donated to Children With Hair Loss.
Zack Newman shows his tattoo during his speech about "Zacking." After his friend Zachary Lederer passed away from brain cancer, Newman decided to get a tattoo in his honor — "LTD" to honor Lederer's motto "Living the Dream" — and the flexed arm to mimic the pose he would make while going through treatment. "It means hope. It means positivity. It's a reminder that we're not moving in isolation and can make an impact onto one another," Newman says. "I've outlived him, but I won't let his spirit die." Newman encourages everyone to follow @ZachingVsCancer on Twitter.
Sisters of Phi Mu dance it out in the front row while learning the next 8-count of the morale dance. The sorority had special shirts made to show their connection to each other and the main event.
From left, Emmi Apel, Kylie Alexander and Caitlyn Guy work on Miracle Child T.J. Clime’s banner, taking a break from dancing. Apel, a senior, expressed how bummed she was that she wasn’t able to participate last year. “I put everything into it this year,” she said.
Senior Amanda Gingrich, MizzouThon’s vice president of family relations, dons her tulle tutu with a bedazzled fanny pack and a “Family Relations” button with a baby photo of herself during Saturday morning’s MizzouThon setup. The red tulle in her tutu is to honor the life of Tommy, a miracle child that passed away in November.
Senior Ellen Hinze cries, hugging senior Erin Ehlers as Miracle Families make the rounds to cut off the wristbands of each dancer at the end of MizzouThon. "Ellen, you're crying because it's over and I'm smiling because it happened," Ehlers said.
Meg Adams and Leah Hoelscher raise their hands in the air with the rest of MizzouThon leadership and dancers forming the sign language for "I love you" as Miracle Families cut wristbands off each dancer at the conclusion of the main event.
Senior Kat Birkenbeuel, MizzouThon leadership member, plays the ukulele on stage during a tribute video to Miracle Child Tommy who passed away in November 2015. "Tommy was the first nonverbal kid I met," Birkenbeuel said. "As soon as I started talking to him I saw his eyes light up. In that moment, I really understood that just because you can’t talk doesn’t mean you can’t communicate. His laugh was amazing."
Parker Russell, Dominic Chambers, Bryce Boudreau and Alyssa Leonard beat their hands on the stage in sync with the beat of the music, anticipating the beat drop.
Alexis White raises her hand in the air with the sign language sign for "I love you" as Miracle Families cut wristbands off each dancer at the conclusion of the main event.
Sean "Dogger" Miller dramatically sings the lyrics of “Shout” into Carly Bowman’s ear as she giggles along during the main event.