Slice of Life

OttoTHON, Syracuse University’s 1st Children’s Miracle Network dance marathon, raises more than $84,000 for children’s cancer research

Jennifer Fura had to simultaneously deal with the cancer diagnosis of her 2-year-old son, Scotty, while being pregnant with her daughter, Carly.

Though the disease claimed his right arm, Scotty is alive and well today — a healthy 11-year-old that enjoys playing sports such as baseball, football and jiujitsu.

“There are some things he had to learn to do differently,” Fura said of her energetic son. “But it never stops him from doing anything.”

The Furas, a family from Camillus, New York, were the first to talk about their experience onstage at OttoTHON, Syracuse University’s first Children’s Miracle Network dance marathon aimed at fundraising for kids affected by cancer.

The event, aimed at raising money for kids like Scotty who were affected by cancer, had participants dancing for 12 straight hours and raised a total amount of $84,013.33 for Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. OttoTHON took place at the Women’s Building starting 6 p.m. Saturday and lasted until 6 a.m. Sunday.

“I think it’s awesome that everybody wants to help all the kids that need it,” Scotty Fura said.

Though organizers of the event originally hoped it would beat the record for the highest amount raised in a first-year dance marathon, OttoTHON did break the record for the highest amount raised in a first-year dance marathon in the northeast and the record for the largest number of participants in a first-year dance marathon.

Across the country, OttoTHON raised the third-highest amount of money for a first-year dance marathon, said Jillian Lynch, founder and executive director of OttoTHON. At the event, OttoTHON organizers also announced that the marathon raised the most money of any philanthropy at SU.

Lynch, a sophomore broadcast and digital journalism and citizenship and civic engagement major and former columnist for The Daily Orange, said she “couldn’t have asked for a better night” and that OttoTHON, as a first-year dance marathon, exceeded all her expectations.

“Besides raising all of the money we raised, the families from the hospital had so much fun and got to see the support they have from us at the university,” Lynch said. “And the dancers were so committed and looked like they were having a great time out there.”

Dance teams — comprised of various Greek organizations, student clubs and individual students — first gathered in an upstairs staging room before volunteers led them into the giant gymnasium, which was decorated for the event and featured a massive stage.

OttoTHON organizers kicked off the event with a series of speeches. Lynch explained how she had first gotten involved in dance marathons in high school and how she contacted Brit Davis at Children’s Miracle Network this year to start a dance marathon program at SU.

Davis, CMN manager of dance marathon programs for the northeast region, spoke onstage to congratulate the dancers on their donations and efforts.

“Tonight you guys are joining 300 universities who participate in Children’s Miracle Network Dance Marathons, so tonight is so much bigger than what’s going on in Syracuse,” Davis said. “You are joining a movement of hundreds of thousands of students defying all generational stereotypes about the millennial generation.”

Dr. John McCabe, CEO of Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, also spoke briefly onstage.

“Patient care, insurance payments, that’s what does the day-to-day stuff at the hospital,” McCabe said. “But these kinds of events and these funds are what lets us do the special and the extra things.”

In the absence of speakers, teams of dancers decked out in tutus and bunny ears frequented the stage, dancing to songs like “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor. The lights went off and were replaced by multicolored disco lights, creating a more club-like atmosphere.

A couple hours into the night, Julia Pantalone, a 2013 SU alumna, took the stage to talk about her brother Nick’s struggle with cancer.

She recounted her brother’s year-long struggle after he was diagnosed at 16, describing the heart-wrenching experience of seeing her brother with tubes sticking out of his body, enduring procedures and surgeries aimed at fighting tumors. He died in 2013 at the age of 19.

“You’re helping to alleviate costs most families cannot bear themselves,” Pantalone said to the gathered dancers. “I’m more proud than ever to call myself a Syracuse alum.”

Somewhere in the middle of Pantalone’s speech, the night saw its first mishaps. A few dancers began to faint across the gym, prompting Syracuse University Ambulance members who were present to take action. The rest of the night was free of such accidents, as OttoTHON organizers regularly offered cases of water bottles throughout the event.

The long night featured performances by a group of ballroom dancers and the a cappella group The Mandarins. The event wound down in the early hours of the morning with tournaments of games like rock, paper, scissors.

“Mostly all night we danced,” said Emily Gallagher, a freshman international relations and history dual major who served as OttoTHON’s Day Hall president during the fundraiser. “There wasn’t much standing around.”

Correction: In a previous version of this article, it stated that OttoTHON was Syracuse’s first dance marathon, when in fact there have been several dance marathons on campus.It is SU’s first Children’s Miracle Network dance marathon. The Daily Orange regrets this error.

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