Life-threatening illnesses hit hard, especially for children. And it’s not just the
person battling the disease who suffers — families and friends carry the burden, too.
Through its ongoing support of Prisma Health Children’s Hospital, Dance Marathon can
Emily Saidel, a senior business major who has been part of Dance Marathon since her
freshman year, has been hit with the weight of illness more than once. Her father
has battled cancer, and one of her closest friends passed away while they were still
in high school. Those experiences helped motivate her to give her time to help kids
battling illnesses of their own.
“Every moment matters,” Saidel says. “I think being part of this makes us more aware
of that and more selfless. I think that is important not only for Dance Marathon,
but also for everything else you do.”
The University of South Carolina Dance Marathon is the university’s largest student-run
philanthropic organization, raising more than $7.2 million since its inception, with
all the money staying close to home. The Child Life Program at Prisma Health Children’s
Hospital is funded by USCDM, and the USC Dance Marathon Playground offers a safe outdoor
space for patients and siblings to play during their stay at the hospital.
It all started with a small group meeting in Russell House in 1998. This week, University
of South Carolina Dance Marathon will celebrate 25 years of helping kids and families
at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital. More than 250 students, all volunteers, have
worked throughout the 2022-23 school year to make year 25 a success. At the Main Event
at the university’s Wellness and Fitness Center on March 25, more than 1,000 other
students will join them for a 14-hour celebration and final drive ending with the
reveal of the year’s fundraising total.
“Everyone in USCDM is so driven, so compassionate,” Saidel says. “Whenever you go
to a meeting, you can feel the passion in the room and you know these people truly
care about what they’re doing.”
Biology major Baylee Marin is part of the USCDM Morale Team. Their role is to build
excitement throughout the year, and at the Main Event they lead the unique line dance
in which everyone participates.
“It really pushes me out of my comfort zone. I have a really big fear of public speaking.
I never thought that I would be dancing up on stage in front of more than a thousand
people,” Marin says. “It’s really rewarding to see that pushing yourself and doing
the hard things is how you have the biggest impact.”
The faces change as the years go by, but the mission never does. To keep the momentum
going, USCDM launched the Ignite program, recruiting younger students and introducing
them to the many parts of the student organization. Sophomore pre-med student Maryam
Chahoud joined Ignite in fall 2022 and has embraced her role as part of the team that
will launch the next 25 years.
“It just means so much to see kids not be afraid of the hospital and feel like they’re
somewhere where they’re safe, and that’s what the Child Life Program does,” Chahoud
says. “Meeting so many of the kids and getting to tour the hospital was an incredible
opportunity. It makes you feel accomplished to know that you’re even remotely some
part of something that’s changing young kids’ lives. Who wouldn’t want to be part
of something so big and so purehearted?”
Public health major Katie Torbert has been part of Dance Marathon since the Ignite
program brought her on board as a freshman. This year, as a senior, she is the USCDM
“The one word that comes to mind when reflecting on 25 years of USCDM is legacy,”
Torbert says. “This organization has built a legacy on the UofSC campus. The legacy
has been built by our leaders, our miracle kids, and the light they bring to this
world. One of the biggest lessons USCDM has taught me is that a large group of passionate
college students can make a positive impact on their community.”
The university’s Wellness and Fitness Center will host the Main Event on March 25.
To support USCDM, click here.
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