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Rutgers Dance Marathon goes virtual

This year's Dance Marathon event will be held in the form of a virtual live stream and will continue to maintain its focus of bringing Rutgers community members together to support the Embrace Kids Foundation.  – Photo by The Daily Targum

The annual Rutgers University Dance Marathon (RUDM) will take place virtually this year on April 10 in the form of a live stream event, said Christina Skurka, a School of Nursing senior and director of event logistics. 

While the marathon typically draws thousands of Rutgers community members each year to the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) on Livingston campus in support of the Embrace Kids Foundation, the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has required this year’s marathon to look different, said Hannah Sturm, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and director of human resources.

Skurka said the live stream event will include a number of virtual programming opportunities, incorporate content from throughout the year and feature various RUDM traditions, student organizations, supporters and alumni.

“(We will) feature highlights from this past year such as our Marathon Madness events, consisting of several different games and activities in which student organizations participated, events with the kids and their families, alumni reunions and bonding events for our Central Planning Team,” she said.

Additionally, Veronica Cardiellos, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and director of dancer relations, said the event will feature “Champions,” which is a new term the team created this year to replace the traditional “dancer” title. Champions are individuals who fight for a cause in the face of adversity, she said, and aside from being able to be featured in the live stream, they will also be able to attend various Marathon Madness events prior to the marathon.

“Because we understood that physically being together in the RAC was unlikely, we felt that calling our participants ‘Champions’ was more fitting,” Cardiellos said. “This year, more than ever, our Champions were up for the challenge and continued supporting our organization despite the financial realities and the fatigue we are all experiencing to some extent.”

Divya Bhagat, a Rutgers Business School senior and director of marketing, said that when it came to programming and planning for this year’s RUDM, they had to create new ways to achieve their annual goals and incorporate Rutgers community members during the pandemic. For instance, since they could not hold in-person fundraising or marketing events, she said they shifted their energy into social media campaigns and matching days instead.

“We (also) lowered the registration fee and required a lower fundraising minimum and provided a variety of fundraising activities and challenges throughout the year,” said Matthew Ramina, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and director of finance. “This modified approach was able to help us to provide critical funding for Embrace Kids Foundation and the families that we serve, while lessening the burden on individual participants.”

Due to the pandemic, Taylor Rhoads, a School of Nursing senior and director of family relations, said that this year they decided to implement a minimum fundraising amount in order to ensure Rutgers would be able to help sustain the most important core programs of the Embrace Kids Foundation. 

“This was the first time in history that we allowed a fundraising goal to guide our path,” she said. “We were motivated less by the thrill of the event and more by the recognition that patient families would suffer even more loss if we gave up. We were honest and open with our community and asked them to help.”

Overall, Rhoads said RUDM has always been a time where the Rutgers community can come together in support of the Embrace Kids Foundation and celebrate their various accomplishments. 

While this year’s event may be a different experience compared to marathons in the past, she said they hope RUDM 2021 gives participants the same sense of community and pride it is known for and reaches its fundraising goals. As of yesterday, the event has approximately 964 registered Champions, 37 captains and 25 Central Planning Team members, Sturm said.

“As opposed to a finale, we hope our program inspires students to continue supporting the Embrace Kids Foundation and moves viewers to donate to our families, who need us now more than ever,” Rhoads said.


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