Elon University senior Dana Pajk doesn’t dance for her major, or for fun — she dances for the kids. But for her fourth and final year, the opportunity to dance for the kids has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic caused by COVID-19.
Pajk, president of Elonthon, said the decision to cancel the dance marathon was driven by concerns about the health and safety of those that would be participating. Mainly, the families of the children who have pediatric cancer, as well as the over 1,000 students who participate in the dance marathon every year.
Elonthon is a dance marathon where students can sign up to dance for up to 24 hours in recognition of pediatric cancer patients at Duke Children’s Hospital.
Elonthon is one of 220 other dance marathons across the nation and is the 22nd largest dance marathon in the country. The Miracle Network dance marathon movement began in 1991 and since its inception has raised over $300 million for children with pediatric cancer across North America.
The Miracle Network did not return Elon News Network multiple requests for comment.
Despite the cancellation of the in-person event, online fundraising will take place via Facebook, fundraising links and emails to potential donors. Students involved with Elonthon will also continue to fundraise “through their own pages,” Pajk said. Those who are not members of the Elonthon organization can still make donations directly to elonthon.com.
“At this time, we are working with our advisers to develop a plan for this transition to a solely digital push,” Pajk said. “Next week we will be sharing with our participants and the Elonthon community how to be involved and continue to raise funds and awareness for the kids from home.”
All funds raised at the event will be donated to Duke Children’s Hospital, a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. Fundraising will end on April 4, the day the in-person event was scheduled to happen.
“We are not letting this cancelation stop us from our mission of raising funds and awareness for Duke Children's Hospital, because the patients, families, and doctors at Duke Children's need us to be part of this movement especially now,” Pajk said. “Even without a main event this year, we believe in the miracle makers that are part of the Elonthon community.”
Duke Children’s Hospital did not return Elon News Network requests for comment.
Pajk began dancing six years ago, when she participated in a dance marathon in her hometown of Dublin, Ohio called Dublinthon.
Pajk kept dancing when she came to Elon by participating as a 24-hour dancer in 2017, and she has been a member of the executive board for three years.
“I have had friends and family members who have received treatment from Children's Miracle Network Hospitals,” Pajk said. “Joining a movement like Dance Marathon became a way for me to honor them and celebrate the incredible work of CMN hospitals across the nation.”
Pajk, the executive board and over 100 staff members work throughout the academic year to prepare for Elonthon.
“We are fortunate that this mission goes beyond Elon's campus, and we received an incredible amount of support from the dance marathon community as a whole, including Children's Miracle Network advisers and other programs across the country,” Pajk said. “While it's sad to not be able to host an event this year, we know that canceling the in-person event was a step we had to take.”