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Friday, February 03, 2023

“For The Kids.” It has a nice ring to it.

After all, helping sick kids is important. Many of us want to support the kids in their recovery. That’s what Dance Marathon is about, being there “For The Kids.” But, what does that actually mean? Does that mean you’re spending your time meeting children and learning about their stories? Are you raising money in hopes of fighting against a child’s disease? We hope so because that’s all we’ve been told, and it’s all the proof we have. Your word and a simple slogan.

Dance Marathon is a year long effort by students across the country to raise money for sick children that ends in some kind of celebration. At UF, money is raised for over 77 miracle families that end in an event in the O’Connell Center where students stay on their feet for 26.2 hours. UF’s own Dance Marathon program raised the second most amount of money in the nation last year. On Sunday, Dance Marathon at UF raised $3,230,025.23, which is about $200,000 more than the previous year. That is an incredible amount of money for an incredible cause. According to Dance Marathon at UF’s website, 48 percent of the money raised goes to research, 42 percent goes to patient care and the last 10 percent goes to education. All of the money goes to UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. We understand helping sick children is a wonderful cause, however, we have a few questions.

Where exactly does all of the money go? For example, what are the names of the research grants given out each year? What does patient care mean? Does that mean new beds for children, or does that mean there are more nurses hired each year? What are people being educated on, and why does it cost more than $300,000 to do it? These are simply questions of accountability. We want to be able to celebrate that these kids are truly reaping the benefits of the work hundreds of students have put into each Dance Marathon event, but it can be hard with a largely ambiguous account of where $3 million goes.

How the money is raised is also another question of accountability. Some of Dance Marathon’s money is raised through Venmo, an app that makes it easy to send money back and forth, but it only works with a bank account connected. People often request $1 “For The Kids,” and we may not think too much about it. Who are we to deny a $1 to a sick child, an amount of money that wouldn’t even pay for a cup of coffee? In the grand scheme of things, it seems insignificant, but it still allows you to pat yourself on the back. You did something good.

The problem is, you have no idea where that $1 went. Maybe it went to the kids, but maybe it went into someone’s bank account. You don’t know because there is no proof. The lack of transparency is concerning for us because, in the end, it’s supposed to be “For The Kids.” It may sound cynical to be asking these questions. You may think that we should trust in a system that is made to help sick children. That’s why we have to ask these questions, for those kids, for the hospital that is relying on that money and for you, the one who is spending your hard-earned money on a belief that it’s going to help someone. We’re asking for transparency and maybe a receipt instead of a “like” on Venmo.

Dance Marathon is a year long program consisting of multiple events and is generally a major part of Greek life philanthropy. A lot of Dance Marathon programming and advertising is done through social media. The slogan, “For The Kids,” is effective and plastered across every type of social media. It can be thrown on any Instagram caption involving an obscene amount of neon and fanny packs. It’s about as personal as the paragraphs that are copied and pasted on Facebook asking for money on the day of Dance Marathon. It’s about as personal as slapping someone’s Instagram handle on your story, proving they’ve paid their dues. After all, it’s “For The Kids,” not for a few extra followers, right?

Dance Marathon at UF continues to get bigger each year, and it continues to raise more money. However, we still don’t know exactly how that money is spent or who is reaping the benefits. We believe there should be more transparency when it comes to helping sick children. There are major issues with how the money is raised and where the money is going. We’d love to put the questions to rest and to be able to say Dance Marathon is really “For The Kids.”

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