One day. 10 hours. $125,000 raised.

Quinnipiac’s annual QTHON raises money for Children’s Miracle Network

Ashley Pelletier, Arts & Life Editor

QTHON’s Morale Committee was a constant throughout the event, particularly with its 11-minute Morale dance that volunteers performed at the top of every hour. Photo by (Jack Muscatello)

Rainbow-colored T-shirts, glitter, school merchandise and masks flooded the Athletic and Recreation Center on Quinnipiac University’s Mount Carmel Campus on March 26 from  2 p.m. to midnight.

For the first time since 2019, QTHON returned to its traditional event. In 2020, Quinnipiac held QTHON completely over  social media due to COVID-19. In 2021, the event was held outdoors with assigned time blocks for participants to arrive. All 10 hours of QTHON were filled with dancing, performances and speeches from Miracle Children and their families.

QTHON is part of the Miracle Network Dance Marathon, a program at over 400 schools across the U.S. and Canada that has raised over $300 million for children’s hospitals since 1991.

Money raised year-round at QTHON and other dance marathons goes toward the annual treatment of 10 million children per the Children’s Miracle Network website. Connecticut Children’s Medical Center directly receives Quinnipiac students’ efforts. In 2019, QTHON raised $332,567.12 for Connecticut Children’s Hospital. In 2020 and 2021, the number sat around $200,000.

Alexa Rice, a junior physical therapy major, saw a huge difference in QTHON 2022, but hoped to see a return to the excitement of QTHON 2019.

“It’s so crazy to see the difference from last year being outside,” Rice said after opening ceremonies. “I hope it gets back to how hype it was in the years before us. I hope we can bring it back to that level.”

However, the QTHON management team was not quite able to bring back the full power of the event.

QTHON raised $125,039.67 for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Photo by (Jack Muscatello)

This year, the fundraiser raised $125,039.67. Marley McClure, the executive director of QTHON and a senior nursing major, said that it is in part because a majority of Quinnipiac students had never experienced a normal QTHON.

“It’s really a year-long effort that we are creating on campus,” McClure said. “A lot of people on Quinnipiac’s campus have never gotten the experience of QTHON … They never really understood that magic, that spark that QTHON in itself, that day holds.”

McClure said that the number didn’t matter; the only thing that mattered was helping the children at Connecticut Children’s Hospital.

“We’ve never focused on our grand final total that we’ve revealed at the end of the night,” McClure said. “The total doesn’t reflect any of the hard work and determination that we’ve put in.”

Jacqueline DiStefano, a senior marketing major and a member of Phi Sigma Sigma sorority, said that this year’s QTHON held up to her memories of QTHON 2019.

“It’s really exciting because we haven’t been here since freshman year in person,” DiStefano said. “It’s fun to see that it’s still as exciting as it was that year.”

Members of the Quinnipiac class of 2022 are the only group of people who had experienced a full-fledged QTHON before this year.

Photo by (Jack Muscatello)

“I’ve heard so much about it,” said Julia McKenzie, a junior nursing major. “I think this is one of the big things that Quinnipiac does, so it’s super exciting to actually do it.”

When it comes down to it, the most important part of QTHON is the children. Nine patients at Connecticut Children’s Hospital acted as Miracle Children at QTHON. Each Miracle Child is sponsored by a club. Several children and their families shared their stories, including Eli O’Mara, a 9-year-old boy who has ADHD and dyspraxia.

Allison O’Mara, Eli’s mother, teared up as she talked about the emotional impact that events like QTHON have on her family.

“Connecticut Children’s has been there for our family since Eli was born,” O’Mara said. “It’s these events that my kids can come to and their differences are 100% celebrated and there’s nowhere else that they’re treated like you treat them, and we’re so grateful for every one of you. It’s events like this that fills an empty space.”

To sponsor a Miracle Child, groups had to raise Miracle Points throughout the year by hosting events and raising money. The American Sign Language Club sponsored Nicholas Stratton, a 9-year-old boy with epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Katie McIsaac, a senior occupational therapy major and president of the ASL Club, said having Stratton as a Miracle Child was a rewarding experience.

“It was amazing,” McIsaac said. “I had so much fun, and I know everyone else in ASL Club did too. Nick was the sweetest kid, he was having so much fun and it was really great to be able to make an impact on and help make his QTHON experience so fun and memorable.”

10 of Quinnipiac’s performance-based clubs also did sets for QTHON, including Dance Fusion, Note-able! and Kickline. Bryanna Ferreira, a senior in the 3+3 physical therapy program and a member of Dance Fusion, said that the group’s performance at QTHON was aided by the audience’s energy.

Photo by (Jack Muscatello)

“It was honestly such an indescribable feeling,” Ferreira said. “What I liked the most was that everybody was so upbeat and supportive and cheering us on throughout the entire dance. It just felt so much more intimate than any performance we’ve had so far. It was just an amazing group of people.”

While performances rotated, one particular moment marked the beginning of each hour — the Morale dance.

The Morale Dance is a series of dances set to an 11-minute mix of songs ranging from “Friend Like Me” from “Aladdin” to “Classic” by MKTO.

Kat Egan, a junior in the athletic training physical therapy program, decided to join the Morale Committee after seeing the Morale Dance on Instagram in 2020.

“After seeing how fun it was virtually my freshman year I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of because all the energy they bring is something I wanted to give back to the community and make the day for the Miracle kids even better,” Egan said.

Throughout the day, the Morale Committee gave demonstrations of the different parts of the Morale Dance for participants to take part in the hourly performance.

The Morale Committee began choreographing and learning the dance themselves after returning from winter break.

“Twice a week we were meeting and practicing our butts off,” Egan said. “It’s been a great time. I was always so excited to go to Morale practice. It never felt like a chore. It was always something all of us on the committee were excited to do.”

Regardless of the final dollar amount, McClure said that the money the Quinnipiac community raised will positively affect the lives of hundreds of children at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

“Even if it’s just $1 or $125,000, it makes an impact on those children’s lives at Connecticut Children’s (Medical Center),” McClure said. “They need that money. That is miracles that the Quinnipiac community has made for those kids.”