Their mission is simple: to dance for those who can’t.

For the fourth year in a row, Valpo Dance Marathon continues to evolve and become a fixture at Valparaiso University as one of the largest University-wide philanthropy events. On Saturday, April 9, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., students from across Valpo’s campus will have the opportunity to get up on their feet and participate in this nationwide movement to help raise money to support research, education, and prevention at Children’s Miracle Network hospitals

As students seek motivation to keep their energy up during the event, they often turn to the Miracle Families who speak throughout the day.

Miracle Families are those whose children have previously or are currently being treated at Lurie’s Children’s Hospital for a variety of illnesses and bravely get up on stage and share their Lurie Children’s Hospital journey with the participants.

For Anna Scudiero ’16, a political science major who serves as director of fundraising on the student leadership team, these stories are her inspiration to stay on her feet and keep dancing for the kids.

“Once you actually see families that are impacted by what you’re doing, it makes a huge difference,” Anna explains. “It’s really powerful to hear what they have to say, and it just really helps you realize why you’re doing what you’re doing. I know it always motivates me.”

Anna knows all too well the emotional struggle of having a loved one go through treatment at a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. When she was 12, Anna’s newborn brother, Sonny, was rushed to Lurie’s Children’s Hospital, formerly Children’s Memorial Hospital, for surgery on his intestines.

Throughout the process, Anna notes what a positive difference finding a sanctuary in Lurie’s made for her and her siblings. “They had cool rooms for the kids to hang out in, and they would sit and hang out with us because we were just kids. My family always really appreciated that, and I know that my dad always said if he had a million dollars to give away, he would love to give it to Lurie’s.”

Now with a healthy younger brother who recently celebrated his 9th birthday, Anna is very thankful for events like Dance Marathon that help families like hers relieve the financial burden of having a child in the hospital.

Christ College scholar Ben Hoemann’16, the group’s executive director, encourages students to participate in Dance Marathon, as it is a cause that aligns directly with Valparaiso University’s commitment to civic engagement and philanthropic service.

Even more so, Ben explains, “I believe very strongly is that Dance Marathon isn’t just a philanthropic campaign, it’s a celebration of life. So for us to be able to stand for the full time, we’re standing up against childhood illness and cancer and disease.”

To grow student participation and have the best year yet, Dance Marathon’s overarching goal this year is to work on dancer outreach and retention.

“In the past, Dance Marathon has been heavily Greek in its participation, and we recognize that,” Ben says. “We’re lucky to have the University fraternity and sorority community have Dance Marathon as its official philanthropic campaign, but we would like to expand our participant base.”

To do this, a new concept of Miracle Makers has been established to create buzz around the event in groups outside of Fraternity and Sorority community. Serving the role of team captains, Miracle Makers build morale and awareness around the event in various campus groups and organizations. By establishing key influencers in these groups to carry the cause’s message, Dance Marathon coordinators are hopeful participation will increase.

This year, if an organization have 80 percent of its members signed up for a team, teams have the option to split their time into two shifts of six hours each rather than everyone staying for the full 12 hours.

There is an array of activities lined up to get students pumped up for event. As in the past, there will be the classic Morale Dance learned throughout the day, games and team activities, Dance Marathon jail, and the miracle stories from Miracle Families.

Both Ben and Anna agree the most impactful moment of their Dance Marathon experience happens at the culmination of the event when the final fundraising total is revealed. Throughout the entire process, the rising total is secret, and everyone together experiences the emotions of learning how many dollars will be donated to save children’s lives.

“It comes down to this one moment where you get to see the physical, tangible results of the group’s hard work and love,” explains Ben as he fondly recalls the reveal. “It might be a number, but it is really more of a symbol of how the Dance Marathon team and dancers all made an impact on someone else’s life.”

Last year’s event raised $33,729.03 to donate to Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. While a fundraising goal for this year has not been specified, the executive board is hoping to surpass the amount raised last year.