Dance Big Red dance marathon raises over $73,000 for Norton Children’s Hospital

Dance Big Red is a student-led fundraising event that WKU hosts every year to raise money for Norton Children’s Hospital. This year will mark the eighth fundraiser and will take place from 6 p.m. to midnight on April 1, 2022.

Julie Sisler

Just shy of 800 students gathered together at Raymond B. Preston Health and Activities Center from 8 p.m. on Friday, March 23 until 8 a.m. the following morning.

WKU’s annual Dance Big Red raised $73,067.84 to benefit Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville. 

Students stayed on their feet for 12 hours to raise funds and awareness for the doctors and nurses, which many students said is what motivated them to stay strong during the difficult feat. 

“What gets me through this hard time is thinking about the doctors that stood for 12-15 hours during surgery,” senior Megan Steinkamp said. 

Steinkamp said staying on your feet and keeping up the energy level throughout the whole night is the most difficult part of being involved with DBR. 

“It’s not an easy thing to do, especially after a long week and day of classes,” co-chair Justin Downey said. “But it is a fun event and one that makes an impact long after you’ve sat down after those 12 hours.” 

The night kicked off with speeches from the event’s co-chairs Johnny Mollman and Justin Downey, Vice President for Student Affairs and Executive Director of the WKU Student Life Foundation, Brian Kuster, executives from Norton Children’s Hospital and families who have been impacted by the hospital. They also had a memorial candle lighting ceremony to honor the kids that aren’t well enough to make it to an event like DBR.

“The candle serves as a reminder of why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Mollman said. “We’re doing this for all the kids that come and talk to us, but also for the kids who aren’t well enough to be here and the ones who are being affected by the money we raised right now.” 

In order to keep things exciting, DBR featured a variety of activities and performances for students to participate in throughout the night. 

When they weren’t having freestyle dance or learning the routine that the entire group performed at the end of the night, students were participating in games like freeze tag, ships and sailors, dodgeball and cornhole. They also took part in activities such as yoga and scavenger hunts throughout the night. 

Students were also able to attend performances from magicians, belly dancers and WKU’s jump rope team, among others. 

“There’s a lot of free time where you can choose from different activities,” junior Allison Hoey said. “There’s also some creativity to it, because people are trying to figure out how to rest their legs without actually sitting down. The performances are good for that.” 

Though it was important to keep up morale with activities, the refreshments served as a good boost in order to keep everyone going. 

Participants were served three meals and provided with refreshments throughout the night. And of course, students had access to some much-needed soda and energy drinks for a caffeine boost.

With the help of the caffeine and constant reminders of why they were there, students managed to keep high spirits throughout the night. 

“At Dance Big Red, you have an endless supply of caffeine at your fingertips,” Hoey said. “And you’ll need it.” 

At approximately 7:30 a.m, a half hour before the event’s end, members of DBR’s executive committee totaled the donations from throughout the night and made the signs for the big reveal of how much money was raised.

“We encourage participants to fundraise even throughout and after the event,” Downey said. “It’s all about being creative.”

Funds were raised continually throughout the night via proceeds from the edible raw cookie dough shop Raw’s concessions, students who paid $5 for the opportunity to sit and rest, and a continual flow of donations coming in from donors and those supporting participants. 

“Even after 8 a.m. when the event is over, the website is still live,” Downey said. “We’re always pushing to see if we can get that one extra dollar, to see how far we can go, how much more of a difference we can make.” 

The tension and excitement was in the air as the committee members stood on stage, signs pointed downwards. A hush fell over the crowd as each member lifted their sign to reveal their number. The crowd burst into cheers when the final seven was raised.

Downey said that moment when the crowd bursts into cheers is what makes the event so rewarding. 

“The moment it hits, seeing the look on everybody’s face…the physical, monumental change that we’re making on someone else – in that moment, you see the change that you just made,” Downey said. 

Now that the event is over and change has been made, both co-chairs are ready to start planning for next year’s event. 

“To make a change, no matter how big or small, that’s the goal,” Downey said. “And that will continue to be our goal as we move forward and keep creating change.” 

For information on how to donate, please visit


Features reporter Julie Sisler can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow Julie on social media at @julie_sisler.