More than a dance marathon, Jagathon eyes fundraising records for Riley Hospital for Children

  • Feb. 23, 2017


INDIANAPOLIS -- Jagathon, a signature tradition in its 15th year at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, returns March 4-5. The IUPUI Campus Center will serve as the new home for the annual event.

The 13.1-hour dance marathon may seem familiar, but Jagathon will feature a fresh look at its new location and boasts of record-breaking fundraising numbers.

A yearlong initiative, Jagathon collects donations for pediatric research at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. Funds come primarily through student fundraising events and online as well as through in-kind donations, sponsorships and soft-credit opportunities in which students are "paid" with contributions to Jagathon for volunteering at other community events.

Also adding to Jagathon's totals are funds raised at high school dance marathons mentored by the IUPUI group. This year it teamed with dance marathons from Beech Grove, Center Grove, Frankfort, Greenfield-Central, Greensburg Community, Noblesville, Westfield and Whiteland Community high schools.

The total money raised is announced at Jagathon's dance marathon, though that description is a bit of a misnomer in that the final event is more carnival than sock hop. IUPUI's largest student-run organization brought in $140,049.94 in 2016, setting a record. That exceeded the total from two years ago by more than $40,000 and from three years ago by nearly $90,000.

The latest total won't be revealed until the event, but increased student involvement and a creative approach to raising money have the group optimistic about achieving more firsts.

"I think the students involved wanted to start working at a higher caliber, and they're ready to take on more," said Kendra Mifflin, a senior nursing major who serves as president of Jagathon. "People know what Jagathon is, but they aren't sure about the yearlong fundraising part. So we came up with the ZeroZeros campaign."

The ZeroZeros campaign's goal is simple: Encourage every participant to raise something for Jagathon. It doesn't matter if it's $1 or $1,000; it all benefits Riley Hospital.

The 24-hour Celebration of Miracles gives students an opportunity to not only improve their fundraising totals but also meet with patients and families from Riley. "We are going to raise over $25,000," Mifflin predicted prior to the Feb. 1 event. "We're very excited about it."

This year's Celebration of Miracles ultimately raised $50,988.63 during its 24-hour fundraising push.

After taking place in The Jungle, IUPUI's main gymnasium, the last two years, student involvement in Jagathon has grown rapidly. The number of committee members working in areas such as family relations, traditions and outreach has expanded from 34 in 2015 to more than 200 individuals this spring. Participants, often known as "dancers," have also increased: After involving 660 in 2015, Jagathon saw 956 participants at last year's event and expects even more this March. The Campus Center will provide much-needed space for dancers, Riley families and community partners.

In addition to doing the Morale Dance, taught piece-by-piece throughout the night and the reason for the "dance marathon" title, students will meet families whose lives have been affected by Riley Hospital and participate in a candle-lighting ceremony, human-sized Pac-Man, inflatable games and contests. To wrap up the marathon, participants will take part in the Run to Riley, a new dash to the hospital -- just sixth-tenths of a mile away -- that seals their commitment to the cause.

"It's important to bring in the diversity that we have at IUPUI to Jagathon to bring more awareness to the hospital and what the hospital does, and to have the kids share their stories, so that students on our campus and in our community can see the impact that this hospital is having," said sophomore Rosie Tarlton. "I like to say that not just Jagathon, but all dance marathons, bring a community together to focus on this cause. We go to businesses in the Indianapolis community and share with them what Riley is doing and why we support Riley. I think that's a big aspect because you have to come together as a community to make things happen, to make a change."

A philanthropic studies major and Jagathon's director of outreach events, Tarlton is also a "Riley kid," having spent her first weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit at Riley Hospital. She has fully recovered from the heart defects she had at birth but still suffers from moderate-to-severe hearing loss.

"It's such an easy cause to get behind," said Mifflin. "Who doesn't want to support the kids when they're feeling at their worst? We provide an outlet where you can help those kids but also create relationships with them.

"It's becoming part of something bigger than yourself. I've worked with a lot of different dance marathon programs, but this is the first one where I've really seen how the program grows students into leaders. That's a really cool thing because they can take those skills into the classroom, they can take them into other student orgs and they can take them into their job."

Jagathon is part of the IUPUI Student Foundation, which encourages students to serve their community by gaining experience in the planning and execution of campuswide events. It is the second-oldest dance marathon in the state, trailing only the Indiana University Dance Marathon in Bloomington. In the last 15 years, Jagathon has donated more than $410,000 to Riley Hospital for Children.

You can donate to Jagathon online.

A tight crowd of students dancing at Jagathon, a signature event on campus that raises money for Riley Hospital for Children.

Students dance at Jagathon, a signature event on campus that raises money for Riley Hospital for Children.

Print Quality Photo

Becky Hart