University of Georgia students danced their way to a miracle, raising a record of more than $500,000 during UGA Miracle’s 18th annual dance marathon.

“This year’s dance marathon was by far the most successful,” said Brian Baker, the executive director of UGA Miracle. “It truly is a testament of the miracle makers that we have on our team. I told the executive board before the marathon beforehand, ‘No matter what the number that we reveal, we know that this year was a success.”

UGA Miracle raised $507,203 during the 24-hour marathon on Feb. 22 to 23. Proceeds from the marathon benefit the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s (CHOA) Comprehensive Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit. The Comprehensive Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit (CIRU) is CHOA’s department that focuses on helping patients’ needs after a traumatic and life-changing injury or illness, such as cardiac complications, spinal cord injuries and brain injuries. The division offers a range of rehabilitative services including physical and occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, audiology and music therapy.

“I participate in the marathon because these kids can’t I want to embrace the freedom and the ability I have to stand at all, by standing all 24 hours in honor of every miracle child,” said Florence Hudson, a junior advertising major from LaGrange.

The 2014 total raised surpassed the organization’s expectations, according to Baker. Executive members hoped to raise $415,000 a 20 percent increase from 2013’s record of more than $345,000. 

“I am extremely proud of the marathon,” Baker said. “We’ve exceeded our goal by over 40 percent.”

Throughout the academic calendar, dance marathon leaders visit CHOA to meet the children and teenagers that benefit from their hard work.

“We are actually the largest annual donor to the CIRU,” said Amanda Turner, UGA Miracle’s family relations co-chair. “We channel our fundraising through the Children's Miracle Network. It’s pretty crazy that we’re college kids and we are their largest donor.”

CIRU’s fundraising needs vary from year to year, according to Turner. The 2014 fundraising will help to expand CHOA’s rehabilitation camp, Camp Krazy Legs, by helping to cover 80 percent of camp costs per camper. The money raised will also help to expand the hospital’s cochlear implant program and the CHOA fellows program.

“We are all floored that we raised so much more than our goal,” Turner said. “I am not sure what [CHOA’s] plans are now but I’m sure they didn’t think they would have the flexibility to spend with the extra money.”