SU holding first ever dance marathon to support local children's hospital

Fundraising efforts for OttoTHON will begin February 28th at 6pm in the Women's Building and last until 6am March 1st, benefitting Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital.

The Syracuse University community will come together to participate in OttoTHON, SU’s first ever dance marathon, in hopes of raising more than $105,000 to benefit the Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital.

Jillian Lynch, a sophomore and the executive director for OttoTHON, has been planning this event since she came to Syracuse. She was involved in similar dance marathons during high school and wanted to start one at Syracuse.

“When I toured [Syracuse], I remembered seeing [Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital] and I was kind of confused as to why we didn’t do any fundraisers for them since they’re so close,” Lynch said.

Lynch contacted an adviser from the Children’s Miracle Network, a national organization that raises money for children’s hospitals.  Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital was in its network.

Each student participating in OttoTHON was asked to set up an account online and raise $100 prior to the event for the hospital to help provide support for sick children and their families. 

At the event, participants are expected to stand for 12 hours, from 6 p.m. on February 28th to 6 a.m. on March 1st. They will “stand for those who can’t,” Lynch said. There will be dancing, food, a photo booth and other activities to keep people occupied, but Lynch is most looking forward to the visits from the children at the hospital.

“I think it’ll just be great to have everyone in the room and we show how much money we’ve raised,” Lynch said.

Lynch said more than 950 people have signed up for the event, but they can only allow the top 800 fundraisers to attend because of budget constraints. Since the event is a fundraiser for the hospital and has a small budget, Lynch said that OttoTHON would not have enough money to offer food and t-shirts for all the people who registered for the event and the board felt the need to downsize.  She said that many students have not started to fundraise. She closed registration, but people requested that she keep it open and promised they would be able to raise the money, so she reopened it.

Amelia Stalknecht, the Finance chair for OttoTHON, has some tips for people struggling to raise the money.

“I would tell people not to focus on getting big donations,” Stalknecht said. “I would focus on getting a lot of small donations.”

Stalknecht said that students can raise $100 by simply asking 10 friends for $10 donations. She said that one of the biggest challenges for the event in its first year was getting sponsors to take it seriously.

“If you said the word OttoTHON, [a lot of people asked] ‘well what is that,’” Stalknecht said. “So our biggest struggle was getting companies to almost have faith in us that we can run an event. It took us a while to get people to sponsor us.”

Lynch said that she thinks people knew about dance marathons at other schools and that helped spark interest.  According to the OttoTHON website, more than 250 colleges and high schools have dance marathon programs. She said that she attended a conference for dance marathon leaders that allowed her to learn from other schools whose events have been around longer.

“We were brainstorming together ‘how are we going to do this?’ and I still keep in touch with some of them and other schools who have already been around for a while have been giving me tons of advice,” Lynch said.

She said that in comparison to other schools, Syracuse has a lot more participants than most other first-year programs.

“I know Syracuse has so much spirit and I’m hopeful that the first year we just get a lot of people in the door, they see what it is, they like it and come back next year,” Lynch said.

To donate to OttoTHON, please visit

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