For anyone unfamiliar with OttoThon, it's Syracuse University's version for Miracle Network dance marathon and supports local children's hospitals. Dancers have a set goal of $100 to participate in the 12-hour dance. They can either raise money individually or in teams. During those 12 hours, dancers are encouraged to stay on their feet the entire time for the children who cannot.
OttoThon is much bigger than a 12-hour dance party with your friends. Speakers share their stories about when he, she, or a loved one was treated or worked at Upstate Golisano's Children's Hospital. It emphasized how much the hospital meant to them when they were at their weakest, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
These moments were definitely the most powerful and most memorable. It was a clear reminder of why we were all there and raising money to improve the hospitals.
I thought the fundraising efforts during the main event were very clever. A personal favorite of mine was when dancers were put "in jail." Dancers would venmo a minimum of $5 to put another dancer on stage in a cell. Their bail is double what the other person donated. So if a dancer was put in jail for $30, he or she has to raise $60 to be released.
Another fundraising method was matched donations when a sponsor would also donate the same amount of money during that hour. These methods encouraged people to reach out to people in their lives to raise even more money.
Fundraising isn't easy, but I learned it's about networking and timing. I was really surprised when I received donations from reaching out to my old high school teachers. It's also about strategy and asking the right people at the right time. My ballet teacher answered a few days after the event to mail me a check. I also reached out to my cousin, but she had just paid her rent.
I only raised the bare minimum $100. I was never really good at fundraising because I didn't think I could convince anyone to give money to something they personally didn't care about. I wasn't going to change their minds into "doing it for me" because that's not what it's about.
At OttoThon, the executive boards reinforced that no donation was ever too small. All of the money was seen as a collective effort and it all went towards renovated the waiting room for families to be together during nervous, stressful times.
The energy at OttoThon was contagious. I give a lot of credit to the Morale team for being extremely cheerful and present throughout the 12 hours. The put all their effort into creating a fun environment for the dancers and children's families. OttoThon was tiring, but it gave me a new perspective and appreciation for my health.
Around 4, we were guided a couple of blocks off campus to the actual hospital. We performed the Morale Dance, which we do every hour. There were children watching from the windows and some who were able to come outside bundled up in blankets.
College was a huge wake-up call for me in general when it came to privilege. I'm a relatively healthy person and I can only imagine how different my life would be if I were in these children's shoes. I remember being very sick when I was a kid, but I never felt like I missed out on my childhood.
There are children whose entire lives revolve around constant hospital visits. We danced for those who cannot leave the hospital. To us, it may be a silly dance, but it gives the children hope and strength that they'll heal and be able to live their lives to the fullest.
I highly encourage people to participate in OttoThon whenever they can. No donation or contribution is too small. As much as it seems like one big dance party, it's really about supporting kids, their families, and the hospital workers who do their best every day.