Dance Big Red raises big cash for kids at Norton Children’s Hospital

Participants gather around a bull riding simulator during the annual 12-hour dance marathon, Dance Big Red on Friday March 31 in Preston Fitness Center.

Emma Austin

Nearly 700 students danced together on Friday night — for 12 hours straight. Dance Big Red participants remained standing all night at the third annual fundraising event for Norton Children’s Hospital, raising over $65,000.

Some participants set up fundraising pages before the event to collect donations from friends and family. Both Greek and non-Greek organizations created teams for the night and competed to raise the highest number of donations.

Dance Big Red also held several events during the year to raise money leading up to Friday night. Dance Big Red Co-Chair Katelin Carney said the executive members have been planning for the night since May.

“We set our goals really high,” Carney said. “We wanted to double everything this year.”

Dance Big Red saw its highest number of participants and raised the highest total this year; last year, there were around 300 participants who raised $25,000.

Dana Matukas, WKU development and marketing coordinator for the Children’s Hospital Foundation and Norton Children’s Hospital, said she hopes the event continues to grow each year.

“It’s so meaningful if [participants] can come and see and hear who they’re impacting,” Matukas said. “To have these college students come and be a part of that — it’s that wow factor — it’s a memory they’re going to cherish forever being a part of something so much bigger.”

Families from Norton Children’s Hospital came at the beginning of the night, some sharing their stories with the crowd. This year, funds went specifically towards pediatric heart and cancer care at the hospital.

Nicole Pendinl came with her 10-year-old son, Clay, a heart patient at Norton Children’s Hospital. When he was born, the left side of his heart wasn’t fully developed, and since then, Clay has had five open heart surgeries at Norton.

“They’re our family,” Pendinl said about the hospital. “They’re family-oriented; they’re always there. I could call the nurses right now and talk to them, and they would help out any way that they could.”

Pendinl, a nursing student at WKU, said she was amazed to see so many students show up in support of the hospital.

“I know it’s not easy to be a student and have to do other things like this, but everybody’s worked so hard, and we couldn’t do it without the support,” she said. “We just thank everybody.”

Elijah Marcum, 7, has received treatment at Norton for his brain tumor after his diagnosis two and a half years ago; he came with his family to Dance Big Red for the second year in a row.

Kara Marcum, Elijah’s mom, said the support they’ve received from the hospital has been phenomenal.

“Knowing what the hospital has done for our family … knowing there are so many college students that are invested to raise money, to help support such an awesome organization, it’s honestly priceless,” Marcum said.

Carney said although the night had been exhausting, it was “very rewarding” to make a difference in people’s lives while making memories with best friends.

“Just having everyone come and stay 12 hours means a lot, because those kids don’t choose to go to the hospital; those doctors and nurses don’t have the choice to sit down during surgeries; some surgeries end up being 22 hours,” Carney said. “The least we can do is stand for 12 hours and support those doctors and nurses at the hospital and support the kids that don’t have a choice to be there.”

Reporter Emma Austin can be reached at (270) 745-0655 and [email protected].