Elonthon steps right up to cancer through dance

1,300 students participated in Elonthon, Elon University's 24-hour dance marathon.

1,300 students participated in Elonthon, Elon University’s 24-hour dance marathon. Photo by Rebecca Wickel.

Bold, colorful capitals cover shirts, pins, tumblers and caps across Elon University’s campus. The Greek letters that plaster campus are a constant backdrop to many activities, but the barriers they create are broken down once a year by three new ones.

FTK — For The Kids is the campus motto during Elonthon, the university’s 24-hour dance marathon that raises money for Duke Children’s Hospital. From April 12-13, thousands of Elon students gathered in Alumni Gym to stand up to cancer, together raising $212,728.

For some students, the act of supporting cancer research and suffering families is a unifying activity for the campus community.

“I loved seeing people from all different parts of campus in the same gym, all dedicated to making a difference in but children’s lives,” said junior Eryn Gorang. “I did not know the majority of people who were there, that was great, because I had the chance to meet new people.”

This is no accident. Senior Allie Weller, Elonthon’s executive director, said the event is designed to have something for everyone so that all students feel welcome.

“Everyone does Elonthon, regardless of what social circles they may
fall into throughout the rest of the year,” she said. “Greek students do it,
religious organizations participate, halls form teams together, friend
groups participate.”

While the diversity of dancers is always a strength of Elonthon, Weller said it wasn’t the only one this year. According to her, the 2013 marathon was better in every way, including number of student dancers and guest speakers as well as the quality of entertainment and activities.

The biggest difference between last year’s dance, also under Weller’s leadership, was the amount of money raised. The 2013 total is more than double the $105,397 donated last year.

The secret to Weller’s success may be experience. She directed her high school’s dance marathon in Indianapolis, and has been involved with Elonthon since coming to campus. But according to her, the event’s results are all courtesy of the dancers.

1,300 students registered this year, promising to complete a minimum of 6 hours and contribute at least $20. For many participants, the time and money are hardly a loss.

“Dancing for a few hours and raising money is absolutely nothing compared to what the kids go through,” sophomore Erin Valentine said. “Elonthon is such a fun and rewarding event to take part in, and it’s great because it reminds you how lucky you are.”

The shared commitment to helping others is what some say helps Elon feel less divided.

“We are all dancing for the same purpose and for the kids, it’s like everyone is the same when at Elonthon,” sophomore Meredith Kornfeind said. “We are all just people trying to help other people. It’s amazing how serving others can unite a campus.”