On Feb. 20 at noon, the University of Georgia's student-run philanthropic organization UGA Miracle kicked off their 26th annual 26.2 hour Dance Marathon.
In previous years, this event had been held in person, but due to COVID-19, the marathon was held virtually over Zoom with in-person attendance limited to UGA Miracle committee members and leadership.
Despite this change, the cards flipped up in Tate Student Center ballroom and on attendees' computer screens, revealing that UGA Miracle raised a total of $1,427,386.91 — the most money ever raised at UGA Miracle’s Dance Marathon in its 26 years of operation. This amount was a result of the 26.2 hour Dance Marathon and a year of fundraising to benefit Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
To kick off the event, UGA Miracle hosted the “Parade of Families,” introducing participants to many of the “Miracle Families” who would benefit from the fundraiser.
Many distinguished speakers spoke of their love for UGA Miracle and the Dance Marathon including UGA president Jere Morehead who claimed that the Dance Marathon is his “favorite day on UGA’s campus.”
Next, the Grelecki family spoke about their son Parker, born with hydrocephalus, and their experience with the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and UGA Miracle. Parker’s father Ryan Grelecki encouraged Dance Marathon participants to “persevere like Parker,” and with that, the participants started learning the “morale dance.”
Even though most people weren’t able to attend UGA Miracle’s Dance Marathon in person, that didn’t hinder students’ ability to have fun and raise money for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
With 26.2 hours to fill, there was no shortage of events for students to participate in ranging from Miracle family stories, a family talent show, cooking class, Netflix party, Zumba, yoga, Zoom hangouts, competitions between color groups and of course, dancing. In addition, participants could tune in on Zoom during certain hours to hear from hospitals, high schools and alumni groups participating in UGA Miracle's efforts.
UGA Miracle's members were a part of different groups designated by color. These color groups had been raising money all year, but this weekend was the final push to reach their fundraising goals.
In addition to participating in several fundraising pushes such as “Another Day, Another Dollar Fundraising Push,” “Go the Distance Fundraising Push,” “ForTeleKids Fundraising Push” and “Champion Today Fundraising Push,” the teams attempted to win points by participating in “color wars,” which consisted of challenges between teams such as TikTok challenges, bingo, a pageant show and Kahoot trivia.
The blue group, composed of participants from Hospital Relations, Merchandise, Delta Phi Epsilon, Sigma Delta Tau and Alpha Gamma Rho, was crowned the winning color at the end of the event on Sunday afternoon.
UGA Miracle added a new element to dance marathon this year: a silent auction. In this auction, patrons could bid on tutoring, themed baskets, fitness classes, art or even a football signed by football head coach Kirby Smart. UGA Miracle raised $2,645.45 through this silent auction.
At 2 p.m. on Sunday, UGA Miracle revealed the individual contributions for each participating sorority and fraternity on campus, which overall totaled to $1,088,861.63.
Just before the total reveal, the Hopkins family told their story and their experiences with the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in relation to their children Mary Elizabeth, Michala and Abe. This was the Hopkins famly’s ninth year as a UGA Miracle family. Marlee Anne Hopkins, UGA freshman and member of the Hopkins family, spoke on her family's experience.
“Every single college student has poured into me and just loved me so big and just done so much for our family," Hopkins said. "So, I want to say thank you, from the sister of three siblings who have been incredibly impacted by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. You all are amazing and what you all do is amazing.”
In honor of the Hopkins family, UGA Miracle awarded the “Mary Elizabeth and Abe Hopkins Joyous Award” to Nicholas Hwang and Mollie Macicek, the fundraising assistant chair and community partners assistant chair of UGA Miracle.
After this presentation, it was then revealed that this year, UGA Miracle raised $1,427,386.91.
Callie Dill, the chief of staff on UGA Miracle’s executive board and senior sport and fitness administration/management major, spoke at the annual “Circle of Hope” after the reveal.
“Whether it’s fundraising, whether it’s the relational side, whether it’s the support system, we could not do what we do every year without each and every single one of you,” Dill said. “We've even been able to hit so many goals, to break so many records and to raise more than we ever have in the history of our 26 years, and that is attributed to each and every one of you.”