With Joy and Hope in Every Step

Can you hear that? There’s a rhythm of purpose beating strongly and a melody of compassion resonating deeply throughout campus. It’s a familiar one — one that grows louder and louder each year as over 300 dancers from our community come together during Valpo’s Dance Marathon (DM) to beautifully blend the joy of movement with the spirit of philanthropy. 

For those unfamiliar with the tradition, Dance Marathon is a movement involving college and high school students at more than 300 schools across North America, all raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in their community. Founded by students at Indiana University in 1991 to honor the memory of Ryan White, a close friend who was set to go to the university that year and passed away from AIDS/HIV complications following a bad blood transfusion, Dance Marathon has grown into a national celebration involving a massive outpouring of compassion in action. Grounded in leadership and service to our community, Valpo, of course, had to join the dance. 

For over a decade, Valpo’s Dance Marathon has lent its light to the nationwide effort and served as a beacon of hope, uniting students, faculty, and the wider community in support of pediatric healthcare. Most recently, the impact of this cherished tradition has radiated outward and onward, beyond the grounds of Valpo’s campus, to leave an indelible mark on the halls of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

What began in 2012 as a modest gathering of Valpo students advised by Assistant Vice President for Student Life Carrie Whittier ’16 MBA, Ph.D., has blossomed into a monumental event, raising awareness and over $572,000 for Lurie Children’s Hospital. This year’s Dance Marathon takes on an even deeper significance as Lurie Children’s Hospital dedicated a special room to Valpo on March 31, honoring the University’s longstanding commitment to pediatric healthcare. True to Valpo’s essence and inclusive nature, the dedicated space serves as a reflection room with ample natural light, offering a warm gathering area for children and their families.

Students, alumni, and hospital staff touched by the lifesaving work of Lurie Children’s Hospital came together for a poignant moment as the dedication ceremony underscored the profound connection between Valpo and the broader community, a connection grounded in leadership, service, and compassion.

Among the many impacted by this profound connection is Valpo’s very own Deaconess Kristin Lewis, M.Min. “Lurie’s is an extremely special place, however, it is often not a place you want to go. In January of 2020, my daughter became a Lurie’s miracle child when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. During some of the hardest days of our lives learning what this was going to mean for her and how we would care for her, everyone at Lurie’s was truly phenomenal. They do all they can to make children and families as comfortable as possible during challenging times. Even to this day, when we go for Elyn’s appointments, we always feel fully seen, heard, and cared for. Elyn loves her medical team at Lurie’s and knows they deeply care about her and are equipping her to lead a full and vibrant life. Support for Lurie’s such as that raised through Dance Marathon is so important to make sure that this resource is available for all kids and families that end up in situations where they need it. I’m grateful that Valpo students do so much to support all Lurie’s kids, especially my own,” she says. Kristen and Elyn had the chance to share their love for Lurie Children’s in a tribute video during Valpo’s virtual Dance Marathon held in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, occurring the same year as Elyn’s diagnosis. 

Students and hospital staff gathered at Valpo's Dance Marathon room dedication ceremony at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
Photo credit: Bryce Fairchild ’26

Another member of our campus community, Bryce Fairchild ’26, was in attendance on dedication day, capturing the event and a glimpse of Valpo’s profound impact. As a participant in Dance Marathon since coming to Valpo in 2023, Bryce says, “I wanted to take part in DM because one of my family members has spent some time in children’s hospitals and I wanted to be able to help kids like him get the best care they can! Last year, I just attended the event as a dancer. This year, as a part of the morale team, the main event and the time leading up to the event have a whole new sort of energy to it. Knowing that the effort we put into DM behind the scenes helps motivate each dancer the day of is very rewarding. I also got the chance to visit Lurie’s Children’s Hospital this year and see the massive impact we, as a University, have made for the kids there firsthand! Attending the room dedication put everything into perspective for me. Seeing our University’s commitment to the hospital and the children there honored by the dedication of this room makes everything we’ve done here feel worthwhile. I was given the opportunity to see how big of a difference our students truly can make. It’s not only just for an amazing cause, but it’s also fun! It’s by far my favorite service event throughout the year, because it gives me a chance to support the kids at Lurie’s while also letting loose and having a great time.”

Reahlyn Bryce ’25 smiling and posing in front of photo backdrop at Valpo's Dance Marathon event.

Reahlyn Bryce ’25, a psychology major who was not in attendance on the day of the room dedication but was there in spirit, shares the significance of both Lurie Children’s and Valpo in her own story, “I was a patient at Lurie Children’s Hospital for most of my childhood. My mom and I would take frequent trips from our hometown in Mishawaka, Indiana, to Chicago to visit Lurie’s because not only were they the only hospital that provided my individualized care, but the environment was so amazing! Since becoming a student at Valparaiso University and participating in Dance Marathon, I’ve been able to reflect a lot on my experience and have felt nothing but gratitude being able to be a part of something bigger than myself and to see other kids who have also gone through so much to be here. There was a very special moment during last year’s Dance Marathon when I had a hospital bracelet cut off of my wrist and was overcome with emotions,” she remembers. “That feeling of being more than just a patient and being able to be surrounded by real human joy was so impactful. I am incredibly grateful to be able to participate in DM and dance for those who can’t. It’s one of my favorite things about Valpo!”

Everyone who has been a part of Dance Marathon can attest that the energy and joy on the day is undeniable as participants dance for hours on end, fueled by the knowledge that their efforts are making a difference in the lives of children and families facing medical challenges – a true testament to the power of collective action and the boundless generosity of the Valpo community. As Kristen, Bryce, Reahlyn, and other Beacons plan to carry on the tradition this Saturday, April 6, Valpo’s 12-year partnership with Lurie Children’s stands as a shining example of the University’s mission to serve others with joy.

In the end, it’s not just about the dollars raised or the hours danced – it’s about the lives touched and the hope restored. As long as there are children in need, Valpo plans on dancing, with joy and hope in every step.

Learn more about how you can lend your light through a donation or participation in this year’s Dance Marathon.

Valpo students dancing during Valpo's annual Dance Marathon event.