HuskerThon 2020 booth (copy)

Students interact with the Dance Marathon booth in the Nebraska Union on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

A night full of fun, excitement and philanthropy is calling all University of Nebraska-Lincoln students, and it begins with many college students’ favorite word: “free.”

This Friday, Oct. 2, Miracle Network Dance Marathon will host FTKids on the Block, a block party-style event with food, games, giveaways and student performances. Participation in games will also give attendees the chance to win free T-shirts and other Dance Marathon merchandise.

The event will take place from 4-8 p.m. in the greenspace outside the Nebraska Union and will be aimed at raising awareness and participation for HuskerThon, a 13-hour event featuring live acts, crafts and other activities that will be held in February. Admission for the block party is free, but to enter, attendees must register for HuskerThon.

Since 1991, Dance Marathon has raised over $300 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals all around the country, and as their slogan says, it’s all “for the kids.” 

Dance Marathon is one of the largest recognized student organizations at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Each year, students all across campus gather together to raise money for Children's Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha at HuskerThon. Last year alone, UNL raised more than $235,000. According to a Dance Marathon Instagram post, the funds provided two new fetal care center nesting rooms and a new NICU staff lounge. 

While this event is geared more toward getting students to sign up for the event rather than fundraising, Em Paquette, a special events staff member and current top fundraiser for Dance Marathon, said events like these are instrumental in the final fundraising goal.

“It’s important that we do events like these because a lot of people mainly start to donate when they see events happening,” Paquette said. “My personal fundraising page has spiked in donations the past couple of days with the upcoming event.”

This year, the food will be provided by Chick-Fil-A and The Foundry. Participants can also enjoy a lineup of local music and student performers including baton twirlers, cloggers and UNL acapella group Pitch Please. 

To keep in compliance with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, hand sanitizer will be provided, masks will be required at the event and a 6-foot physical distance will be required to be maintained by all participants at the event. 

Due to the COVID-19 crisis and increased social distancing measures, performing live this year is an opportunity that some, like senior advertising and public relations major Kenzie Leblanc of Pitch Please, didn’t think would happen. 

“We are so excited to be performing at this event,” Leblanc said. “Performing is why we do what we do, and in such a crazy semester, being able to perform is such a great opportunity to be able to share what we have been practicing with the people supporting Dance Marathon.”

Paquette said that while the block party is an excellent opportunity to increase student involvement in Dance Marathon, it also helps to bring Dance Marathon awareness to those in the community and start the excitement for the main event in February. 

“This event is important because it brings a lot of foot traffic to Dance Marathon and to our campus, which is great,'' Paquette said. “It’s cool to have people that are bigger than Dance Marathon come out and support the event. During Dance Marathon, we can't have outside people like that come to the actual event, so [the block party] is just a really good opportunity to get the excitement going for both the kids and the students.”