Dance Big Red to feature 12-hour dance marathon for a cause

Katelin Carney of Lexington, and Mandy Johnson of Louisville lead a dance during Dance Big Red, a 12-hour dance fundraiser, on Friday, March 31, 2017 at the Preston Fitness Center. The event raised money for pediatric cardiology and adolescent cancer care at the Norton’s Children Hospital.

Julie Sisler

Bad dancing saves lives. This is the motto of Dance Big Red, WKU’s 12-hour dance marathon to benefit the Children’s Hospital Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises funds for Norton Children’s Hospital and its sister facilities in Louisville, Kentucky.

Dance Big Red, or DBR, has been running since the summer of 2014. Since then, it has raised over $100,000 to go towards research and operations at Norton Children’s Hospital. This semester, the event will take place Friday, March 23 from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. at Raymond B. Preston Health and Activities Center.

According to Dana Matukas, the liaison for Dance Big Red and Norton Children’s Hospital/Children’s Hospital Foundation, Norton Children’s Hospital provides care to over 170,000 children from across the state of Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

DBR is a non-affiliated, community-wide event, open to all students. Students can sign up to participate as individuals or form a team.

Matukas said that the event is all about WKU students giving back to children who are less fortunate.

“It is an event for every student on WKU’s campus, an event making an impact for children from across the state treated at Norton Children’s Hospital,” Matukas said. “The event will make a lasting impression within your heart and mind – it’s a powerful event.”

Last year’s event raised $67,000, surpassing the year’s goal of $50,000. The money was used to build and furnish an area of the children’s hospital. This year’s goal is $100,000 and funds raised will focus on pediatric cardiology and adolescent oncology.

The event is a mix of free time to do things like eat, dance, socialize, and wander from activity to activity, but also has certain planned activities, such as speakers and dance time.

Among other events, this year’s activities will feature a mechanical bull, dodgeball and of course, plenty of dancing.

Students can register anytime, up until the time of the event on Friday evening. The cost is $12, to represent 12 hours of dancing. However, students are encouraged to raise as much as they can in order to help reach the event’s goal.

Co-chairs Johnny Mollman and Justin Downey believe there are so many reasons to partake in the event.

“I want people to understand why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Mollman said. “There are doctors and surgeons who perform 15-hour surgeries on babies. That’s why we’re standing for 12 hours.”

Downey finds it difficult to find one moment or reason to explain how rewarding participating in DBR is.

“There are children who attend the event and they see the love and passion that the community has,” Downey said. “A lot of these kids won’t make it to college. They won’t have these opportunities.”

The co-chairs said the event doesn’t take a lot in order to give a lot. By taking 12 hours out of the day to attend an event, it’s giving some children the opportunity and resources necessary to live for years.

“We can make a difference,” Downey said. “I think sometimes students are so caught in the fact that ‘I’m just a broke college student.’ But by paying just 12 dollars and giving up 12 hours to dance and listen to patients’ stories and just have fun, you are making a difference.”

Mollman says the impact of one student can be directly seen by the family of one of the many children supported by Norton Children’s Hospital.

“These families have enough to worry about,” Mollman said. “Let us take on some of it. I want participants to understand the impact that we can make if we all come together. It’s so humbling because I’m doing something so small and these families think it’s the biggest thing on the planet.”

Though the event itself only lasts 12 hours, the co-chairs and their committees have been planning the event since approximately one week after last year’s event.

“Before the excitement from DBR even wears off, we’re already beginning to plan next year’s event,” Mollman said.

The committees spend a year gathering donations and sponsors for the event, as well as planning the activities, food and logistical operations of DBR. The group even goes on a trip to Norton to meet patients and see the funds raised the prior year at work.

Downey said the event gets larger and larger each year, raising more money and making it possible to touch even more lives.

“I want to get so big that Preston can’t hold us anymore,” he said. “I want to be so big that the state of Kentucky knows what DBR is.”

Mollman and Downey urge students to consider partaking in the event in order to create new memories for themselves, while giving others the chance to do the same.

“I’ve got two left feet of my own but I will be out there the whole night,” Downey said. “Because bad dancing does save lives.”

For more information and to register or donate, click here.


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