NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Two consecutive, 12-hour dance sessions weren’t exhausting enough to quiet the crowd.
Participants of this year’s Rutgers University Dance Marathon, squeezed into the Rutgers Athletic Center, roared with shouts and applause when they got the news: They broke the fundraising record for the event by raking in more than $1 million.
The party, which occurred on March 31 and April 1, featured more than 1,700 dancers and 200 volunteers, according to the university. In its 19th year, the Dance Marathon’s haul pushed its all-time earnings to $6 million.
“The goal in our minds is always just to break the record. Period,” Jennifer Noji, a senior and the event’s marketing director, told Rutgers Today. “That’s what we strive for: more Rutgers and community involvement.”
And the Dance Marathon has indeed become a staple of campus life for many at Rutgers. University officials tout the event as the “largest student-run philanthropic” effort in New Jersey.
Throughout the years, tens of thousands of people have busted a move and broke a sweat on the dance floor, representing any number of organizations, from sororities and fraternities to clubs and independent teams.
What’s more, the money raised goes toward the Embrace Kids Foundation. The New Brunswick-based charity group supports the non-medical needs of kids with cancer and blood disorders, along with their caregivers, according to Rutgers. The nonprofit provides assistance to more than 300 patients.
Some beneficiaries even participated in the marathon.
“It’s just a beautiful sight to see the students and the families and patients dancing together,” Noji told Rutgers Today. “We are all standing and dancing together for one cause.”
Volunteers raise money through friends, family members and corporate sponsors. Some hold bake sales and similar fundraising drives, according to the university.
Dancers must raise at least $350, volunteers are responsible for $100 and planners need $450-$700 to take to the floor.
The marathon used to run 30 hours straight. But last year, in the face of swelling participation numbers, organizers decided to divide the event into two 12-hour jams.
It’s no surprise why the amped-up crowd broke out into a frenzy upon learning they had beaten the fundraising record. As red and white strips of paper flooded The RAC and scorekeepers held high signs proclaiming the more-than-$1 million victory, it was clear that these students had left their mark—and, in doing so, lent a hand to those who need it most.
The only question: How high can they go in 2018?