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OttoTHON Raises $112,000 for Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital
On the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 6, several hundred participants in Syracuse University’s OttoTHON dance marathon made their way from the Schine Student Center’s Goldstein Auditorium to the parking lot of the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital on Irving Avenue. There, the group proceeded to do the energetic OttoTHON morale dance.
They had a captive audience—children undergoing treatment at the hospital came to the windows above to wave and watch the commotion outside.
It was fitting that this was the audience, because it was all for the kids.
The dance marathon, part of the Children’s Miracle Network, is the third OttoTHON that SU students have organized in the past 18 months. The event raised nearly $112,000, with all proceeds benefitting the hospital. These funds aid Golisano patients and their families with expenses not covered by insurance, and help the hospital provide supportive services and purchase updated equipment. The total amount raised through the three OttoTHON events, held in March 2015, December 2015 and Nov. 6, is nearly $263,000.
Nearly 1,000 students registered for the 12-hour marathon on Nov. 6. Many families from the hospital and from Gigi’s Playhouse, a local Down Syndrome Achievement Center, attended throughout the day and offered words of inspiration to the dancers.
The event is organized and executed by an all-volunteer, 24-member student executive board composed of students from all across the University’s schools and colleges. Audra Linsner, a sophomore in the Newhouse School, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School, joined the board this year, serving as campus relations chair.
“The event last year was so incredible and I had never seen anything like it—you actually got to meet and dance with the kids and families who are impacted by your fundraising. This year, I was inspired by the amount of work that goes into planning an event,” Linsner says. “I was also truly floored by the walk to Golisano. I’ve been there before, but when you have nearly 350-400 people with you dancing the morale dance for the kids who are watching in the windows—it was surreal.”
A 12-hour marathon can test the endurance of even the most conditioned athletes. Alissa Seiter, a sophomore in the Newhouse School and the board’s alumni relations chair, calmed her shaking legs by reminding herself of the children the event would benefit. “Knowing that I was a part of making a difference in their lives was motivation enough for me to keep going,” Seiter says.
Keeping the whole group of hundreds of students energized was the job of Zachary DePetris, a junior in the School of Education and morale chair for the event. He created the morale dance, which was performed every hour to keep spirits high and participants focused.
“During the event, my legs started hurting, and I was tired, but as the morale chair I had to keep it up,” he says. “I said to myself, ‘I’m in pain right now and it is only temporary, while there are children who are going through things so much worse every day, and I can help make that a little better.’ This is what got me through the event.”
Laurie Beth Koller, a junior in the College of Visual and Performing Arts and the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, serves as executive director of the event. “OttoTHON has given me something to believe in with my whole heart,” Koller says. “As someone who has been a part of OttoTHON since the beginning, to see the growth—a quarter of a million dollars in three events—is just incredible, it’s crazy.”
Overall, the dancers are what inspire me personally. It is all worth it when a dancer, who I do not know, comes up to me at the end of the event with tears rolling down their face and thanks me for the work that the executive board and I have done. Moments like that inspire me, and it is also what makes OttoTHON so special,” Koller says.
“OttoTHON is becoming more than a fundraising event, it is being recognized as a movement. This movement is creating an incredible partnership between the philanthropic students at SU and Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital,” says Lorie Riedl, retail development director for Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. “To date, OttoTHON has benefitted unmet needs of our family-centered programs, the expansion and renovation of the pediatric emergency department and pediatric cancer programs. The efforts of the students will benefit the families in our 17-county region for a lifetime.”
And the impromptu trip over to Golisano was definitely a high point for the students.
“I cannot put into words what standing outside that hospital felt like, with the hundreds of student dancers alongside us,” says Tori Cedar, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences and OttoTHON external director. “There, in that moment, everyone truly captured and understood why they signed up for this. It was a moment that I will never forget for the rest of my life.”
We are all part of a movement so much bigger than ourselves. It gives me the chills thinking about the unity, positivity, and love that came out of this event,” Cedar says. “We are making waves that are truly making such an impact. It’s just remarkable.”