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Boise State Amps Up for Second Annual Dance Marathon Benefiting St. Luke's Children's Hospital

 2013 Boise State Dance Marathon

For 17 hours starting Feb. 28, Boise State University students will be on their feet to support St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital through a national event called Dance Marathon (DM).
February 24, 2014

Dance Marathon is held at more than 255 colleges and universities across the country, it has been ongoing for 23 years. This is a Children Miracle Network event that benefits hospitals including St. Luke’s Children’s, which is Idaho’s only Children’s Miracle Network hospital.The 2013 DM Executive Team celebrate surpassing their goal.

This year is the second time Boise State has hosted the event after successfully surpassing their goal the first year and raising $5,036 for St. Luke’s Children’s. “I have to say that a lot of events and donors raise a lot more money than $5,036, but very few of them make this kind of emotional impact on us,” said Zoe Brunelle, St. Luke’s Health Foundation Director of Special Events.

Passion and emotion is exactly what drives the DM executive team to work year-round to make the event successful both in raising money for children and keeping the entertainment and inspiration going for all 17 hours of the marathon. “You were given these opportunities to go to college and live a pretty healthy life and then you see kids who are not given that opportunity and it strikes something in people,” said Stephanie Pyles, founder of Boise State’s DM.

Participants of DM have no easy job, either. Not only do they participate in the fundraising, but students dance for the whole event. “Of course your legs get tired and you get exhausted, but when they bring the Champions on stage every couple hours and they tell their stories, you understand why you are there,” said McCall Shearer, DM participant and FTKrew (For the Kids Crew) member.

Select children who have been or are currently being treated at St. Luke’s Children’s are invited to the event to share their story as Champion children, this year there are 11 local children who will participate. Sam Lee is one of these children. Sam, who is attending for the second time, is a prank-playing “all-boy.”  He is nearly 10 years-old with a difficult and challenging health diagnosis that has caused him to spend much of his life in and out of St. Luke’s Children’s.

Sam Lee learning a morale dance at the 2013 Dance Marathon.

“Pretty much everything,” Sam said when asked what he is looking forward to at this year’s DM. One of his favorite activities from last year was being on stage performing a “morale dance.”

The DM executive team has maintained a close relationship with Sam over the past year even attending his birthday party. “I think that the participants in Dance Marathon have really found a kindred spirit in Sam and he’s let them be a part of his life. This is an incredible group of young people who want to spend their time with him at Chuck E. Cheese,” Brunelle said.

Donations from events like the Dance Marathon are incredibly important to St. Luke’s Children’s. Philanthropy helps support many of the services, which are often provided free of charge to children and their families. “St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital is the only children’s hospital in the state of Idaho and we’re remote so we have to be very self-sufficient when it comes to caring for children,” said Belinda Day, Director of Pediatrics.

Many children from the surrounding areas come to St. Luke’s Children’s for treatment. An estimated 90,000 children are treated each year. There is a lot of growth that puts a huge demand on the hospital for new services and facilities. DM funds will help meet that demand including a future plan for a new patient pavilion. “We want to build a pavilion that will be the center for all the physicians to be housed so that children who have multiple physicians to see, can go to one place, often in just one day to see all their doctors,” Day said.

The entire focus of St. Luke’s Children’s is on the children and their experience and making it easier on them. Although many patients at St. Luke’s Children’s face very difficult medical challenges, they are just like children everywhere.  Sam, for example, has been known to play a few pranks on his doctors and nurses and even wears costumes before procedures. They are all ways for him to cope and have a bit of fun.

“The doctors and other staff have treated Sam well.   They were patient with him when he was afraid, played along with him when he was being silly, were willing to answer question after question, and took the time to get to know him better.  Those are some of the many reasons St. Luke's is such a great hospital for kids like Sam,” said Sheila.

The DM executive team members, as well as DM participants, are there for this very reason: to support specialized care and treatment for children. Every dancer is given a minimum goal of $50 to raise. “We want people to show up to support the Champion Kids. It’s not a requirement to raise money but when you know what you are there for you think, ‘It’s only $50, I want to raise way more than that for the kids," Shearer said.

The 2014 executive team showing off their shirts.

So far the team has already surpassed this year's goal of $7,500. This is a huge accomplishment because commonly, DMs raise a bulk of their money in the final two weeks leading to the event. “There are always roadblocks that come into money and college students giving money, but I feel that we have a very giving community here not just Boise State but the community around us,” said Pyles.

Local businesses have really expressed support for DM this year. With it being the second year and having the ability to not just tell but now show people what DM is all about, there has been very good response to their efforts. “I think that local businesses that are really supportive are also the businesses that Boise State students support. Local partners know that these are students that support them and will keep coming back,” Brunelle said.

The event itself has also blown up this year. “We have minute to win it games, we have blow-up toys, and this year we will have a lot more entertainment which will be really cool,” Pyles said.

Dancers like Shearer can stay engaged for all 17 hours with different theme music each hour, but regardless of the activities it is the people that make DM what it is. “It’s not hard to stay energized when you are feeding off of other people’s energy. When there are that many people dancing and having such a great time, it’s easier for you to have that adrenaline as well,” Shearer said.

 McCall Shearer showing her moves at the 2013 Dance Marathon.

Fundraising aside, DMs can serve the purpose of increasing awareness about children with debilitating illnesses. “It helps people realize that kids are kids regardless of whatever diagnosis they may have, whether they eat by mouth or rely on a feeding tube, walk on their own two feet or depend on a wheelchair. They like to have fun and be silly, and they want to be loved and accepted for who they are on the inside, not judged for things beyond their control,” said Sheila.

DM is also looking for volunteers for the night of the event. If you’re interested in helping, contact Stephanie Pyles at [email protected]. If you’d like to experience DM the day of, visitors are invited to come between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.

“I encourage everyone to come and check it out. You don’t know what a DM is until you experience it yourself and for St. Luke’s employees to show their appreciation, it would be really meaningful to the Boise State group,” Brunelle said.

For more information or to donate to Dance Marathon, please visit