Last Saturday, Cornellians danced together at Barton Hall to support Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital during Cornell’s annual Big Red Thon. This fundraiser is one of many that have been held since Cornell joined the nationwide Dance Marathon Movement seven years ago.
Big Red Thon is Cornell’s version of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Dance Marathon, which began in 1991 at Indiana University. Cornell students founded Big Red Thon in 2015 and have since raised more than $115,000 for Syracuse Children’s Hospital. Saturday’s dance marathon was their biggest, most anticipated event and the final push to raise more money by the end of the year. The money they raise this year will be used for mental health resources and facilities at the Children’s Hospital.
For ten hours, members of the Cornell community and families associated with the hospital enjoyed games, food, and each other’s company as they danced to fight for children’s health. Event planners took turns onstage talking to attendees about the cause and urging people to donate money. Every hour there would be an announcement to introduce a new “push” to increase engagement and donations; these challenges ranged from soliciting donations from friends on Venmo to donating certain amounts of money to slap pie in the faces of event organizers.
Select members of the troupe would occasionally stop ongoing activities to teach participants a choreographed dance, in preparation for a full performance at the end of the event. All the students working on the event made sure the families were involved throughout the day, especially the children. Children associated with the hospital raced through a bouncy castle, played life-sized CandyLand to go along with the Candy theme, danced to kid-friendly song selections, and even took to the stage to show off their moves.
Various campus groups also came together to support the event by donating money and participating in the dance marathon. The entire Women’s Lacrosse team showed up and worked in shifts to ensure they were there for the entire ten hours.
Caitlin Slaminko ’25, the Big Red Thon’s communications recruiting president and member of the lacrosse team, was very proud of her team’s involvement.
“Many girls raised a lot of money through fundraising and we didn’t have to push very hard,” Slaminko said. “They knew how good the Big Red Thon is, and they had no problem raising a lot of money and asking family and friends.”
Other clubs such as The Absolute Zero Break Dance troupe added to the entertainment by performing alongside the Shadows Dance Troupe, the On Tap Dance Troupe and others. At one point, Absolute Zero even left the stage to dance with all the participants.
Annie Thomas ’23, a board member of Big Red Thon, has been with the group for two years and remembers the rewarding aspect of her job.
“Big Red Thon means a lot to me since I’ve been on it for a while. I really enjoy working with the families all year round,” said Thomas. “We can visit the hospital and meet the families. It is really nice to have the kids at the event so we can see where our fundraising is going.”
Two families with strong ties to Upstate Golisano also attended Saturday along with their children to enjoy the event. Siobhan Grevelding, whose son Lennox has been a patient at the hospital all his life, spoke on stage and thanked the participants for their help and all they do for the hospital and its children.
“The things you do with these danceathons make that possible for the hospital, and it also makes our stay a little bit easier,” said Grevelding. “It means a lot because unfortunately we’re there a lot of the time, so the things that come out of this are great for our kids, so we really appreciate it.”