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IlliniThon Receives National Dance Marathon Programming Award

IlliniThon at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign was recently awarded the Marathon Programming Award at the Miracle Network Dance Marathon Leadership Conference in July. The Marathon Programming Award recognizes an organization that implemented exceptional and engaging programming during their Dance Marathon event that positively contributed to the experience of everyone participating.

IlliniThon wanted to take their event to the next level with fundraising, Miracle family involvement, and ensuring that their participants’ experience at the Dance Marathon would not be forgotten, including constant reminders of why they are a part of this generation fighting for the kids at HSHS St. John’s Children’s Hospital.

The student leaders recognized that they needed to make a few major changes to their Dance Marathon event in order to make it more successful. They partnered with their university’s Campus Recreation staff to allow for IlliniThon’s Dance Marathon event to take place at a larger and more inclusive venue. They also changed the time of their event to a 12-hour event during the daytime, helping to obtain more diverse entertainment groups, better rentals, more Miracle Family involvement, and increase member retention. These changes also allowed the students to plan for more strategic in-event fundraising.

“Not only was 2019 a year of firsts, but also a year that laid groundwork for more successful future Big Events,” IlliniThon President, Jessica Gruen said.

IlliniThon enhanced its in-event entertainment to keep members engaged throughout the twelve hours. They hosted a caricature drawer, henna artists, a Zumba instructor, a self-defense course, acapella, comedy, and breakdancing groups, and set up an inflatable obstacle racecourse and a GIF photo booth. They also provided activities for attendees to participate in, including card making for kids at St. John’s Children’s Hospital, life-sized hungry hungry hippos games, board games, Wii competitions, a 4 Square competition, quilt blanket making, a basketball tournament, and a rave hour.

In addition to improving in-event entertainment, IlliniThon worked hard to improve in-event fundraising in order to have one last push to increase their overall fundraising total before the end of the event.

They hosted fundraising pushes, including a challenge with St. Ambrose University Dance Marathon, who was also hosting their event on the same day, to see which school could raise the most money in one hour. They had one of their Miracle families tell the story of their daughter Kaydence, who has overcome an infection throughout her entire body, a grade 3 brain hemorrhage, a hole in her heart, and a perforated intestine as well as six surgeries at just nine years old. In honor of Kaydence’s nine years of treatment, IlliniThon challenged participants to send nine text messages to ask for donations in order to try to raise $60 in 60 minutes. They turned the lights in the gym off and, once students raised $60, they turned the flashlights on their cellphones on. Kaydence then came over and autographed their t-shirts to thank them for fundraising. Their hope was to light up the room like the lights that shine inside the Miracle kids who are alive thanks to HSHS St. John’s Children’s Hospital. 

Throughout the event, IlliniThon also encouraged participants to fundraise during personalized pushes, sending out text and graphic templates to participants, a fundraising jail, “luck of the buck,” and pieing people in the face for donations. During the Big Event, IlliniThon raised $29,295.21, a large contribution to the $381,677.19 they raised in total for the kids.

We can never say enough thank yous for everyone who made #BigEvent2019 such a success, but today we are going to try! Our first thank you goes out to everyone who attended, the kids loved spending time with each and every one of you & so did we !!

Posted by IlliniThon on Monday, April 1, 2019

IlliniThon members accept the Marathon Programming Award at #DMLC2019 on Sunday, July 21.


Miracle Network Dance Marathon is an international movement, involving over 400 colleges, universities and K-12 schools across North America that fundraise for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Since its inception in 1991, Miracle Network Dance Marathon has raised more than $250 million–ensuring that no child or family fights pediatric illness or injury alone.

Learn more about Miracle Network Dance Marathon:

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