Auburn University’s fourth annual Dance Marathon is set for Saturday, and while the yearlong fundraising event has only been around since 2012, it’s already made a big impact.

The 12-hour event will kickoff at 10 a.m. Saturday on Auburn’s campus. It’s the culmination of a year of student fundraising for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

“The event itself is held on campus in the ballroom of the student center,” explained Sarah Kelly, Auburn University Dance Marathon (AUDM) president. “It’s especially a celebration of the lives of our children and their families.”

In February 2012, AUDM raised $66,000. Last year, the event brought in more than $176,000. The funds go toward Children's Hospital at Midtown Medical Center at Columbus Regional Health, the closest children’s hospital to the university.

“(Children’s Miracle Network) is committed to all the funds that are raised staying in the area,” Kelly said. “(Children's Hospital at Midtown Medical Center) serves over 21 counties, including four in East Alabama, Lee County being one of them.”

Children’s Miracle Network serves a variety of pediatric patients, not just kids Kelly describes as “frequent fliers,” children who have serious or long-term illnesses.

The fundraising lasts all year via an online system where each registrant has a page and sets their fundraising goal.

“This is a 100 percent student-run organization. …This is the fundraising efforts of individual college students who believe in the cause,” Kelly said. “The individual fundraising aspect is what carries it.”

In October, AUDM made a commitment to aid in capital improvement of Children's Hospital at Midtown Medical Center. The group pledged $500,000 for a pediatric emergency department lobby named after AUDM.

“It really embodies what Children’s Miracle Network is all about,” Kelly said. “This is a way for us to reach as many families as possible.”

The children’s emergency room is connected to the main ER, but looks a lot less intimidating.

“It’s not scary. It’s kid-friendly; small furniture, bright colors,” Kelly said, adding AUDM is proud to have been able to leave a lasting impression on the hospital after only four years.

While the final total of this year’s AUDM will not be announced until the actual event, the organization had to up its most recent 24-hour campaign push, from $15,000 to $30,000. At the end of the day, funds totaled more than $45,000.

As of Tuesday, roughly 700 students had registered as dancers. Kelly expects about 800 total participants, which is close to last year’s turnout. While the event’s name implies dancing, AUDM also boasts games, entertainment and theme hours, like Marvel versus DC comics and arcade themes.

“No dance experience is required to have fun,” Kelly said. “…Just making it a fun, college event.”

She added “Miracle Families” will also share their stories with students “to bring a connection to the cause.”

While the event is a campus favorite, Kelly said AU students are passionate about the cause it celebrates, as well as Children’s Miracle Network.

“All different kinds of kids, all different kinds of families,” she said. “…You never expect to need a children’s hospital in your life.”

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