Can’t Stop Their Why; Quinnipiac University’s Virtual Dance Marathon

Categories: Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, Events

After eight successful years and raising more than $1 million, Quinnipiac University (QU) students were not going to let the current COVID-19 pandemic ruin their 9th Annual QTHON Dance Marathon benefiting Connecticut Children’s, their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.

QTHON is a yearlong fundraising effort leading up to an unforgettable 12-hour dance marathon to support Connecticut Children’s. With the recent global pandemic QTHON’s team was unable to host this year’s dance marathon on the Quinnipiac University campus in March; a great disappointment for more than just the hardworking team.

Can’t Stop Their Why

A global pandemic, however, wasn’t enough to slow these students down. They were more determined than ever to finish what they started a year ago. Their decision to persevere is why their movement this year was fueled by a new slogan, “Can’t stop our why.” With a new world of social distancing and stay-at-home recommendations, these students creatively turned to social media to continue their plan to support the medical community at a time that needs it more than ever.

In QTHON’s live story, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center Foundation President Dave Kinahan said, “We are in the midst of a health crisis right now and a lot has changed, but one of the things that hasn’t changed is that we have critically ill children coming to Connecticut Children’s, and they are being well taken care of every day.”

That is why these incredible students have overcome these challenges to continue their support for the children and families at Connecticut Children’s by taking a new spin on this year’s dance marathon.

Taking It Online

QTHON Dance Marathon
QTHON community coming together on one of their fundraising push days to tell their community “why” they dance.

Using the popular platform, Zoom, as well as other social media outlets like Instagram Live and Facebook, more than 1,200 Quinnipiac University students came together on April 9th to continue the fight for children’s health. From 10 am to 10 pm, these students took part in activities ranging from learning a choreographed morale dance to participating in physical challenges from the management team. Most importantly, the viewers got to hear directly from the Miracle Families, who would have attended the event in person, through home videos that expressed their admiration for the QU students and appreciation for the care they receive at Connecticut Children’s.

A Day of Inspiration

The morning kicked off with opening ceremonies and announcements from this year’s Executive Director, Rachel Taylor. The management team then challenged all participants to stand for three hours straight to honor the kids being treated at Connecticut Children’s.

The marathon then introduced the first Miracle Story. Miracle stories are a Dance Marathon tradition, in which families get to share their personal experiences and explain how their Miracle Network Hospital impacted their lives. Families were so appreciative that QTHON was still doing all they could for Connecticut Children’s, they sent in home videos to express their gratitude.

Eli O’Mara and his mom, Allison
Eli O’Mara and his mom, Allison, share Eli’s story from home for QTHON.

One of the many moving stories came from 7-year-old Eli O’Mara’s family. Anyone who has been fortunate enough to meet and talk to Eli knows he is one special boy! Eli loves to share his “education books” about the states and his favorite bugs. However, his family never thought he would become such an outgoing young boy.

Eli first came through Connecticut Children’s Emergency Department when he was 8 months of age, experiencing a life-threatening allergic reaction to the food he had eaten. Eli went on to suffer from nutritional problems and developmental delays, not speaking until he was 3½ years old. He was diagnosed with a developmental coordination disorder known as dyspraxia, which affects physical motor skills and speech. He has more recently been diagnosed with autism and is being treated for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

But thanks to Connecticut Children’s, Eli’s story is a success story. Eli’s mother, Allison, shared in their video, “Eli is a little boy that we didn’t think was ever going to walk, or talk or communicate with his family, but with the doctors at Connecticut Children’s, they helped us figure out what was wrong and how we can treat it.”

Because of support from events like QTHON, Eli is able to get the patient care he needs to continue his journey as the outgoing young scholar he has become.

A Virtually Perfect Day

Throughout the rest of the online event, the team led the student participants in their morale dance every hour on the hour, engaged participants in more challenges, shared more Miracle Stories, and even had performances from Quinnipiac’s Cheer and Tap teams.

QTHON’s management team revealed their final total on April 9th at 9 pm.

Then came the moment the students had all been waiting for: At 9 pm the management team came together on Zoom and raised the final total: After a year of planning and fundraising and 12 hours of virtual dance, the QTHON community had raised an amazing $206,697.59!

Foundation President Dave Kinahan summed up the QU students achievements with, “You truly are creating miracles, thank you and please stay safe and be well!”

To support patient care at Connecticut Children’s, please give today.