Q&A with Ryan Lightner

June 2, 2014 by School of Medicine Webmaster


MadiTHON at James Madison University (click to enlarge)

Q: Tell me about this event.
Students at James Madison University hosted the inaugural MadiTHON to support Children’s Miracle Network and UVA Children’s Hospital on March 29. The Dukes danced all night long to raise funds and awareness for children and families at the Children’s Hospital.

Q: Where did you get the idea for this event?
Dance Marathons have been around for a long time but have recently gained in popularity over the last 5 years or so. Penn State has the largest Dance Marathon (THON) which is actually the largest student philanthropy event in the world, so you could say that they were the creators of the event. We have a Dance Marathon at UVA which takes place in February every year, as well. That event is sixteen years old and raised $71,000 in 2014.

Q: Will you do this event again?
Ideally, MadiTHON is going to become a rich tradition at JMU. Not only was this the largest amount raised by an inaugural event in our region, but it was the largest student philanthropy event in the entire history of the university.

Q: What was the main reason for holding this event?
Phi Mu, a sorority at JMU, focuses on philanthropy for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and they have also done fundraising events for the hospital. In the past, all of their events took place in the fall. When I questioned them about this, they told me that they did not know of an event that could compete with Relay for Life in Harrisonburg. When I introduced them to the idea of Dance Marathon, they formed a committee and really took off with it.

Q: What was your process for planning this event?
This was an event that was really organized by the students. We met in January, just 3 months before launching the event with the executive committee. I brought in a Dance Marathon consultant (and some pizza) and we all sat down and talked about everything that needed to get done before the event. After a 3 hour meeting, we delegated duties and sent the students out to do the fundraising. At the end of the meeting we set a goal of $20,000 – one dollar for every undergraduate student at JMU. They reached that goal in 3 weeks!

Q: How long was the Dance Marathon? How many people came out?
We started Dance Marathon at 7:00 PM on Saturday, March 29. At that moment, all of the dancers stood up at the same time; standing for the kids who can’t stand. About 400 students showed up for the event. At 7:00 AM, we ended the event and revealed the record-breaking total.

Q: Was there one story from the event that really stood out for you?
The only students that knew how much was raised were on the executive committee. The rest of the dancers had no idea; they just knew that the goal was to raise $20,000. The executive committee wrote the total on giant poster cards and lined up to show everyone the grand total. When they turned the cards around, the total read $26,796 and the dancers went crazy! They had reached their goal. After a few seconds of celebrating, the first two digits switched positions and there was a silence as it took the weary-minded students a moment to realize that they had more than tripled their goal and broke the record.

Q: Wow,
$62,796 and a new first year fundraising record for Dance Marathons in the Northeast Region! What will this money provide?
This money is unrestricted and will go towards pediatric research, life-saving equipment, and child development tools.

Q: Overall, what was your favorite part of being involved in this event?
My favorite part of being involved was watching the future minds of our community come together so passionately for children they may never meet. They could have chosen many other ways to spend their Friday night (not to mention the countless hours leading up to the event) but instead they chose to do something good for complete strangers. I am very proud of what they have done and grateful to have been a part of this event.

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