By Alyssa Davanzo
Standing for 18 hours can be painful, but it’s pain that many UConn students are more than willing to endure if it means making the kids at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center feel like kids again.
“These kids have to stay in the hospital 24/7, sometimes for months on end, even sometimes days, and it takes away from their childhood,” said Vice President of Recruitment for HuskyTHON Alyssa Pelletier. “I’ve seen it happen to family members too and we want to give them as much of their childhood back as they can.”
HuskyTHON is the largest student-run philanthropy effort in Connecticut and will take place on March 7th and 8th in the Field House. HuskyTHON is a weekend-long, 18-hour dance marathon that brings the UConn community together to raise awareness and funds for the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
“We get caught up in the small things, but it’s always important to be reminded of why we’re doing this and we try to think back to when we were children,” Pelletier said.
Vice President of HuskyTHON Communications Maddie Love said this annual fundraiser is unlike any other on campus.
“We’re very self-absorbed in college and I think that HuskyTHON is the one day out of the year where we all can come in one space – in the field house – and the college kids transform into the kids,” Love said. “You see these big football players playing with these tiny kids on the moon bounce and it’s just the atmosphere is incredible and it’s so enlightening.”
Connecticut Children’s Medical Center keeps its doors open to children facing all kinds of challenges, including traumatic injuries, genetic diseases and cancer. Getting to know the children and their parents has fueled Love to get as many people involved in the cause as possible.
“I’ve had parents come up to me and say ‘My son wants to come to UConn now and he wants to be on management team for HuskyTHON,’” Love said. “Having parents come up and say that they want their kids to come here reminds me that we’re dancing so that these children have the chance to be a UConn Husky.”
Vice President of Fundraising Jess Solotruk connects personally to the cause due to surgeries that she underwent as a child at Yale New Haven Hospital.
“I sat there and I just watched TV all day and didn’t know what to do with myself and when someone was like ‘Oh, do you want to play checkers or cards or anything?’ And I was like ‘YES, please play with me,’” Solotruk said. “Just being involved in such an amazing organization as HuskyTHON is, it just makes me feel like I’m actually giving back to the community now and making it ‘For the Kids,’ more birthdays, more people who are going to be in this world and have the opportunities that we’ve have.”
HuskyTHON raised $457,581.04 in 2014 and Solotruk is confident that this year’s fundraising total will surpass the last.
“We’re going to get to $1 million. We don’t know if it’s going to be this year or next year, or a few years from now,” Solotruk said. “We’re working just getting to the road to one million and that’s going to be our slogan until we get there.”
Whether students choose to spend the entire 18 hours on their feet cheering others on as a morale captain or helping the Operations team by serving food as a volunteer, leader of Donation Management Ryan Profetto said that everyone is welcome to sign up and participate.
“This is an event for everyone. It’s not just if you’re in an organization,” Profetto said. “You can join as an individual. We would really love to have every single UConn student participate in some capacity, whether it’s volunteering, dancing, being a morale captain or just stopping by to support your friends at some point during the night.”
HuskyTHON is something that Solotruk says everyone should experience before graduating.
“It’s just such an emotional experience because you’ve been there for so long, you haven’t slept, you haven’t sat down and you’re so tired and so happy and just so emotional about the whole experience,” Solotruk said. “It’s an amazing thing to have. If you haven’t done it and you’re a senior, you have to do it.”
For as long as kids need hospitals, Vice President of Operations Katelyn Weber said that the UConn community will continue to commit to the purpose of the event, ‘For the Kids.’
“It’s not just this 18 hours of dancing and it’s not just this big party because while that’s an important aspect of it, and for all of the families to enjoy, it’s really just what we can do and what our fundraising goes toward,” Weber said.
Coming up on Feb. 7 is ZumbaTHON, a mini dance marathon from 12-4 p.m. in the Field House. Each ticket is $5 and the money raised will go directly to the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.
Registration for HuskyTHON ends on Friday, Feb. 20. Students can sign up online at huskython.uconn.edu.