What FTK Means to Me

Today, October 31, marks the last day to sign up for Purdue University Dance Marathon 2014. After talking with many people and encouraging them to sign up, I still can sense some concerns that people may have. Prior to joining the Dance Marathon family, I have experienced similar thoughts, and I want to share my experience in joining a Dance Marathon with those who are on the fence about registering. This post is intended to share my observations from conversations I’ve had with those on campus and hopefully answer questions that many people had on mind. I welcome friends, family, fellow Boilermakers, fellow DMers, and prospective DMers to read this and share their thoughts or questions about the Dance Marathon program.

My First Impression

Before I start answering questions that many people had, I want to talk about how I became involved with PUDM, and my feelings about the program from the start.

I have been familiar with the red Riley Buckets ever since elementary school. Every Friday, my elementary school would allow us to wear hats in school in exchange for a quarter donated to Riley. As a 90s-kid, how could you resist the opportunity to wear a Pokémon hat to school for an entire school day? Fast-forward a decade later – I’m in high school. I never really understood what Dance Marathon was, besides the fact that it was [on the order of] a 6 hour marathon of dancing and supporting Riley Hospital. Since I didn’t hear a ton about it, I didn’t look into signing up for it. Luckily, I would be given additional chances to become involved in college.

Fast forward again to my freshman year of college. I just walked out of the club fair from Boiler Gold Rush with 30 pamphlets in hand and a bunch of emails recruiting me to join various student organizations. One of these was the Purdue University Dance Marathon. Based on my friends’ participation with DM in high school, I knew that this was something I wanted to be a part of. After adding all of the callout dates onto my calendar, I discovered that I had a conflict with the callout dates for PUDM, and would not be able to attend. I visited their website at the time, and could not find much information on how to get involved. I sent in an email asking for more information.  After being redirected through the pipeline of PUDM executives, I eventually received this reply:

If you would like to join my committee there will be a $25 committee fee and a $20 registration fee when you register online. You can register online by going to www.purdue.edu/pudm an clicking “register” at the top of the page. In order to attend the marathon you must raise $100 in donations (by the Nov.19 marathon) after setting up your DonorDrive page.

I had no idea what this program was all about, and these committee dues and fundraising minimums were already intimidating me. Coming from a small family, I have always struggled with fundraisers. I had no idea how I would raise $100 and pay $45 in dues, especially when I have just been billed for tuition. As a result, I turned down the opportunity to join. Little did I know, this would be a decision that I would regret.

 

I Enrolled Into the “Army of Hope”

During my junior year, while serving as a Boiler Gold Rush supervisor, I was sitting in our lounge (we called it the “slounge”) serving office hours. My peers were talking about PUDM, and they were strongly encouraging me to sign up. At the time, it was the last week to sign up as a committee member, and my supervisors were putting in a ton of effort encouraging me to sign up. I described to them about my reservations I had (described in the previous section), and I asked them many questions about fundraising. They reassured me that it was fairly simple, despite how intimidating the fundraising minimums were (this one was 5x more than what I would have had freshman year – $500).

After a 20-minute discussion, I decided to give it a shot. I filled out all of the necessary forms and applications. A week later, I found out that I was selected to serve on the Technology Committee. Ok, I’m in! So what’s next?

 

What I Learned

One week later, I met my executive, and she explained to me what Dance Marathon was all about. She provided me with a brief overview of the Riley Families that PUDM is partnered with. She encouraged me to attend events that were going on committee-wide. After my first social, I started to realize what the DM program is all about. PUDM is not an organization that solely fundraises money; it is an organization that supports and celebrates the lives and families of those who have been affected by childhood illness.

The first PUDM-wide activity that I participated in was a bowling social in Lafayette. Bowling has always been one of my hobbies, and I finally got to share it with PUDM. My friends were shocked from seeing the high scores I bowled, and in fact, some of the Riley Kids wanted me to bowl for them. Seeing the smiles on their faces just from a simple act of boosting their score provided me with my first emotional connection with the Riley Kids. I was doing what I love (bowling) while making kids happy. What I was doing was for the kids. I was hooked to the organization, and knew that I wanted to dedicate even more time to improve the organization internally.

At the marathon, I had the chance to interact with many families and hear all of their stories. There were stories that made me teary-eyed (or it could’ve been someone chopping onions, but I highly doubt that). Families in attendance shared their experience with Riley Hospital for Children, all of which were positive. At that moment, I learned what the purpose of the event was – PUDM is a celebration of life. All Dance Marathons celebrate those who have been cured from childhood illness, and also stand for families fighting for a cure. We dance for the kids who can’t, and we know that we are dancing along side with those in Heaven.

At this point, I was convinced that PUDM was no longer an organization that just asks for money. We fundraise to seek a cure for childhood illness and support families who are in need of assistance, and then celebrate after a year of hard-work. Riley Hospital does not turn a child down for any reason, and the hospital solely operates on funds raised by donors.

The Dance Marathon can easily be the largest public party that any university can hold. A key concept to remember about DM is that it’s not about your ability to dance, but your will to support a cause and participate in honor of those who can’t.

 

Addressing Questions from the Public

Over the course of this week, I sent messages to many of my friends asking if they’ve signed up for the marathon. I have received a bunch of responses, and I want to address them below in case others are feeling the same way. For the sake of privacy, I will not mention or provide any names of people I have had these encounters with.

 

“I don’t have time to participate.”

I’m going to substitute the question “What is the time commitment?” to address this concern. As a dancer, the marathon is only 18-hours, and it takes place over a weekend (Saturday evening to Sunday/noon). Given that there are 168 hours in a week, the Dance Marathon only requires 11% of a single week of your time (give or take a few hours for fundraising). Are you sure that you don’t have time? I highly suggest checking your calendar for November 22-23, and seeing if you can book a day and a half for this celebration. This is also the weekend before Thanksgiving Break, so there’s a slim chance that professors have scheduled exams for the following week.

 

I don’t know how to dance”

I’m enrolled in Dance 101, and I still don’t know how to dance. The Morale Committee has already choreographed a synchronized dance that is taught for the duration of the marathon, so even if you don’t know how to dance at all, you will have the ability in learning a dance that thousands of students participate in sync. Your dancing skills will not be evaluated at the marathon.

 

“From my own personal experience many of the people who I’ve met that do PUDM, do it for the wrong reasons.”

Almost every student organization experiences this problem. If you want to make a difference, and do it for the right reason, find some of your most influential friends, and see if they want to participate with you. That’s what my BGR supervisors did. Negative influences should not hinder your experience or impression with an organization.

 

“I don’t have the energy for that”

If you want to get “natural energy”, do as I did last year. Pull an all-nighter on the day of the marathon. Go to bed 10 hours before the marathon begins (in my case, the marathon started at 6pm, so I went to bed at 8 am). Sleep for a full eight hour cycle, wake up, shower, and head to the co-rec. You’ll feel like you just woke up, and you’ll have an adequate amount of energy to get you through the marathon (assuming you do not drink any energy drinks). Keep in mind, there are children who hardly have any energy to move, so it is important to keep that perspective in mind.

 

“I’m having trouble fundraising. How do I get started?”

We can help you if you’re having trouble with fundraising! We can offer you a canning spot so you can do some fundraising with a group of people. All you do is stand outside a store at a certain time and ask people to donate to Riley Hospital. At the end of the day, the pool is split among the volunteers, and you receive a “soft-credit” donation, as if someone donated to you!

 

“Gonna go out on a limb and say PUDM people are even more obnoxious than BGR people #freezone

Seeing this tweet really “stumped” me. Everyone knows that PUDM is about being crazy and having fun. If you were to “branch out”, I think you would understand it better. That might be the whole “root” of the problem. I’ll “leaf” it at that.

 

These PUDM people are out for blood”

Glad you found us on campus! Have you registered yet?

 

“I’m flying home for the Thanksgiving during that time.”

Hmm… I don’t have a solution to that. Come see us next year if you aren’t graduating? Until then, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 

Conclusion

Purdue University Dance Marathon has been one of the biggest positive influences in my college career. After missing several opportunities of being a part of the DM family, I committed in 2013. In 2014, I was selected to serve as the executive for the Technology Committee, hoping that I can inspire those who were  in my place to follow my footsteps, like my executive did to me last year. Everything that we do makes an impact on families. Everything that we do makes an impact for the kids. Today is the last day to sign up for PUDM! If you have any questions or reservations about PUDM or Dance Marathon in general, let’s chat – leave a comment below. Otherwise, you should register for the marathon!

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