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Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital takes in $202,248 thanks to Syracuse University dance marathon

The sixth OttoTHON dance marathon at Syracuse University recently raised more than $200,000 to benefit Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital.

More than 550 SU students participated in this year’s event, which is a 12-hour dance marathon and giant party to celebrate the hospital and the families it helps each year. This year’s fundraising total was $202,428.56, which will benefit the new Golisano Center for Special Needs.

OttoTHON has raised $822,503.28 for the children’s hospital since the event began in 2015.

SU senior Brooke Tanner has worked on the event all four years at SU and was this year’s external director. When organizers announced the fundraising total late into the evening on Nov. 9, Tanner said she and fellow executive board members all started crying.

“It’s the most that OttoTHON has ever raised,” Tanner said. “And something really special this year is that we knew exactly where the funds were going. To know that we are going to help alleviate a long waiting list for kids with special needs is incredible.”

OttoTHON takes a full year to plan and the 20-person executive board invests hundreds of hours each year to make it a success, Tanner said. The event is possible thanks to hundreds of volunteer dancers from across campus who raise money by committing to dance for 12 hours straight. Participants also learn about the hospital and its patients before the event.

The dance space in Flanagan Gymnasium included a long stage with blue and orange lighting, hand-painted, bed sheet banners featuring upbeat “For the Kids” messaging, a designated area for patients and families, and a hospitality section to keep dancers fueled for their marathon of movement. Guests included Otto the Orange, SU athletes and Upstate Foundation staffers.

Throughout the day, students heard from and interacted with patients and families who have been treated at the children’s hospital.

“I think it’s really hard to encompass the magic and the emotion of the day to someone who’s never been,” Tanner said. “But it really hits you why we’re there when we parade to Golisano.”

One of the event’s traditions is for all of the dancers to walk together to Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, which sits adjacent to campus. Young patients gather at the windows upstairs to wave to the students and watch them dance, Tanner said.

“A lot of people walk by the hospital to go to class or when they drive to the mall but they don’t think about the children and families who are there for many reasons,” she said. “The parade reminds you why you pledge to raise $100 and you commit to stand and dance for 12 hours straight.”

Danielle LaTour, director of retail development for the Upstate Foundation and the children’s hospital said the parade was inspiring for dancers and for Upstate staff.

“It was really cool. It’s one of the most high-energy moments of the day,” LaTour said. “It’s mid-afternoon, around the time when they need some rejuvenation and they walk down to the hospital with the SU marching band leading the way.”

Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital is part of the Children’s Miracle Network of 170 children’s hospitals across the country. The organization supports dance marathons at colleges and universities across the country. LaTour praised the SU students for giving back to the community they call home for just four short years.

“It’s amazing because a lot of them aren’t from this area; it’s not like they have that internal bond with the hospital when they get here but it’s inspiring how quickly Upstate becomes their home base,” LaTour said. “The Center for Special Needs is going to help us reach so many more patients and cut the wait time for care. It’s so nice to give back to a population that needs our services right now.”

Caption: OttoTHON dancers hold up signs with the total amount raised at this year’s event. OttoTHON has raised $822,503.28 for the children’s hospital since the event began in 2015.

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