By Roya Fathalizadeh–
Over 900 U of L students raised $322,412.85 for pediatric cancer research at the seventh RaiseRED Dance Marathon this weekend. The amount was close to $100,000 more than what was raised last year, and was $22,000 above the goal of $300,000.
Papa John’s, the RaiseRED presenting sponsor for this year, also threw in $50,000 for the event. Overall, previous RaiseRED records were completely shattered.
The 18-hour event is the only student-run organization to support medical research at U of L. Students host various festivities throughout the school year in efforts to raise money for pediatric cancer and blood disease research, culminating in the no-sitting marathon.
From 6 p.m. to 12 p.m. the next day, close to 1,000 participants joined together, playing games and dancing non-stop. Each dancer had their own story of why they decided to help the cause.
“I did RaiseRED because I wanted to help support cancer research and see a positive impact in the local area,” sophomore AJ Walters said. “I’m really excited.”
Others came back to support the cause again. “This is my second year doing RaiseRED,” junior Michael Hawkins said. “I love playing with the kids and the fact that everyone across campus comes together to support this great cause. Tonight I played dodgeball with Dawson, one of the kids in my group from the clinic. It was just so great to see him just be a normal kid for once and have fun.”
Dancing for 18 hours can seem very tiring. That’s when the RaiseRED morale leaders come in. “I go around and hype people up with games and dances all night long,” morale leader Alex Goranflo said. “I was a dancer last year but this year I wanted to get more involved. I’m a teacher so seeing kids sick makes me really upset and want to make a change.”
Each team dances for a kid with pediatric cancer or a blood disease, and the kids and their families are invited to the event.
“We’ve been coming to raiseRED for several years now and each year I am never failed to be amazed by the amount of support we receive from university students and the rest of the community,” said mother Julie Haise. “We’re here for our six year old daughter tonight, Audrey. She has Diamond Blackfan Anemia, which is a rare blood disease which makes it hard for her to produce new blood cells.”
Audrey has caught the attention of people all across the world with her Youtube videos and smile. She has been featured on The Ellen Show and Good Morning America. Only about 1,000 people in the world are diagnosed with it. There is no permanent cure for DBA.
New families coming to the event for the first time were also happy to see the student involvement in this significant organization. “This is my first year coming to raiseRED and I’m so surprised to see the turnout,” said father Josh Collins. “I’m here for my five year old son Logan tonight. A year and a half ago he was diagnosed with Leukemia, and is in remission now at the clinic that RaiseRED raises money for. I think it’s just amazing what everyone is doing.”
Jake Guhy, a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity, served as a Team Leader during this year’s marathon. “I have to give a lot of credit to my fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, but also to the entire Greek community for providing the backbone of support and participation in the dance marathon. Coming together with members of every organization to make a difference has been a great experience,” said Guhy.
“When a child is diagnosed with cancer or a blood disease, their entire world flips upside down. Everything changes,” said Taylor Wilson, who served on the RaiseRED Executive Board. “Mom and Dad now have to get second jobs to afford treatment or quit their jobs to stay with their sick child. Siblings have to spend time with distant relatives while their parents are tending to their child with disease. RaiseRED doesn’t seek to solve the world’s problems or end disease with one dance marathon. Rather, RaiseRED provides hope for families and children affected by disease.”