The theme of this year’s UNT Eaglethon was Celebrate Dreams, and that’s exactly what UNT students did on Feb. 16 as they raised more than $40,000 for the families of Cook Children’s Medical Center and the Children’s Miracle Network through an eight-hour-long celebration with dancing, games, laughing and more dancing.

Since 2014, the Center for Leadership and Service has sponsored Eaglethon (formerly known as Dance Marathon), a year-long fundraising program that ends with a main event featuring eight hours of dancing and activities to celebrate the children helped by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. UNT’s event is part of the Miracle Network Dance Marathon movement that unites college, university and high school students across North America. Students involved in a campus’ dance marathon organization spend a year gaining leadership, teamwork and nonprofit business experience while raising funds and awareness for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. Miracle Network Dance Marathon has raised more than $200 million since 1991.

UNT Eaglethon 2018“Students vow to stand for eight hours and not take a break since many kids don’t get to take a break from their illnesses,” said Caitlin Decker, Eaglethon executive director. “Childhood illness does not discriminate, and everyone can be affected no matter who they are. Eaglethon is a place of joy, and everyone who gets the opportunity of being a part of it knows that.”

Live entertainment and a DJ help pass the time, along with performances by local musicians and university dancing and performing groups. There is even a morale dance that is taught to participants throughout the first few hours and which everyone performs together in the eighth hour. Many children and families also give speeches about their struggles and the successes they have found because of the amazing hospital services, illustrating the true purpose of the event.

“Eaglethon sets out to make a difference in the lives of the next generation,” said Oscar Celis, assistant director of team development. “It has impacted me and helped me find a place on this campus. Working with likeminded individuals has pushed me to be better and do more for the kids. Participants wear FTK (for the kids) shirts because everything we do is for them.”

UNT Eaglethon 2018For the event, students register to participate as individuals or as a teams and proceed to raise funds throughout the year and during the Eaglethon event itself. In March, the Eaglethon committee set a goal of raising $25,000, which they surpassed as the event drew closer. Thanks to the dedication and hard work of participants, the final total was $40,012.86, the largest amount ever raised.

“No child should have to spend their childhood hooked up to machines, being poked and prodded with needles and losing their hair,” said Steph Quinlan, dancer relations chair. “That is why I dance. That is why we were able to double our total from last year. And that is why colleges across the country raise millions of dollars for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.”

The funds raised by Eaglethon will be used for Cook Children’s Teddy Bear Transport program and will buy gas for ambulances for four months, 1,000 teddy bears and 500 art therapy kits.

Money also will go to Cook Children’s Child Life Practicum Experience, which provides students an opportunity to become more familiar with the field of child life and the needs of hospitalized children and youth.

Though the bar has been set high, plans are already in the works for next year’s event to meet or exceed the money raised from this year’s Eaglethon.

View more photos from Eaglethon 2018 here.

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Contact: Ray Willhoft, 940-565-2464,