For the Kids: A Dance Marathon Reflection by Ryan Engesser ’15

At the beginning of November, nearly 8 months of planning and coordination culminated itself for the St. Norbert College Dance Marathon organization. They put on the first ever Dance Marathon event at St. Norbert College, a 13.1 hour celebration. The day was comprised of dancing, activities, and speakers. The ultimate goal behind everything was raising money for the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Between the organization and the 300+ participants, $21,372.01 was raised!

To learn more about the event itself, read our previous blog Dance for a Chance & IgKnight Hope – Dance Marathon 2013!

Below is a reflection of the event by Dance Marathon Co-President, Ryan Engesser ‘15.


One of the most powerful moments of the event was when all of the participants got together and performed the morale dance. Seeing over 200 students come together and perform the same dance to keep each others’ energy up was amazing. At the end of the dance everyone said the same chant:

SNC, what do we say?
Believe in miracles everyday!
For the Kids, that’s why we dance,
13 hours to give them a chance.

I got chills every single time. Everyone was yelling it at the top of their lungs and you could really feel the genuine emotion from everyone in the gym.

My favorite moment of the entire event was the closing ceremony, specifically during the thank you circle. At the beginning of the day, each dancer was given a hospital bracelet from the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. They may not have known what it was for, but during the thank you circle everything made sense. During this ceremony, the DM team went dancer-to-dancer thanking each one of them for attending and staying on their feet for the entire 13.1 hours. As they were thanked, Nicole Haupert (DM Co-President), explained that when the dancers were given these bracelets at the beginning of the event, it was a metaphor for taking on the burden that each one of our miracle children live with on a daily basis. To conclude the event, the co-presidents went to each dancer and cut their hospital bracelet off. This symbolized that the dancers-through their fundraising efforts and interactions with our miracle children-have provided relief to the children of the hospital. There were more tears shed during these 10 minutes than the entire event combined. I cannot explain the emotion I felt as I went to each dancer, looked them in the eye, and thanked them for joining me in this experience. My whole body was numb. I don’t think I have ever felt more full and complete in my entire life. Everything just came together. One circle…one cause…and the power of one community’s effort, sweat, and tears… all joining hands in one amazing moment that wrapped up 13.1 hours of fighting…For the Kids.

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“A moment I will never forget.” – A Dance Marathon Reflection by Maira Rodriguez ’14

On November 2nd, over 200 St. Norbert College students gathered together for the first annual Dance Marathon event, a daylong fundraising celebration. To learn more about the event itself, read our previous blog Dance for a Chance & IgKnight Hope – Dance Marathon 2013!

After much hard work, the results from Dance Marathon (DM) are in:

  • 223 students participated in the day’s activities!
  • 9 families (who had or have children being treated at the hospital) attended the event!
  • $21,372.01 was raised! This will be donated directly to the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. (The fundraising goal was $20,000!)
  • Everyone stayed on their feet for 13.1 hours!

Below is a reflection of the event by Dance Marathon member and event participant, Maira Rodriguez ‘14.


From the moment I stepped into Schuldes Sports Center for Dance Marathon, I got chills. Seeing countless children running around and dancing all day long created an overwhelming atmosphere of joy for everyone and there was not one second of the 13.1 hours that I did not have a smile on my face. Not only were the children having a blast, but their families were too! I’ll admit that my feet were definitely hurting as we got a few hours in, but not once did I consider sitting down. I was constantly thinking about the children for whom I was standing and dancing for. Hearing stories from families was an additional motivator that kept me determined to remain standing. These families were willing to open up to a group of college students, share their memories and experiences, and become completely vulnerable to more than 200 strangers. Each time a family spoke, I could not help but shed a tear. Every single family had a powerful journey full of challenges they had the strength to overcome. Hearing their stories was a truly inspirational and humbling experience.


There was one boy who really touched my heart. His name was Pearce. Pearce’s family was the last family to share their story with us. When Pearce’s family came up and talked about him, his dad mentioned the scars Pearce had on his chest. To Pearce, these scars were known as “battle scars.” His dad shared that Pearce gets really excited when their family shares the story related to his “battle scars” because Pearce feels a sense of bravery for what he accomplished. Pearce was determined to show us his “battle scars”, but his dad urged him to wait until a later time. Upon hearing those words, he became upset and started to cry. His dad, realizing how meaningful this experience would be for his son, immediately changed his mind. With a face of enthusiasm, Pearce lifted up his shirt and showed us his “battle scars.” At that moment, my heart just melted. He was so vulnerable in showing them to us. I could not help but cry and smile at the same time. The stage was his and our hearts connected to this little boy and to his story. As the family went off the stage, I went up to Pearce and gave him a huge hug and all he could do was smile. That was a moment I will never forget.

 As a senior, I am beyond grateful that I had the opportunity to be a part of the first St. Norbert College Dance Marathon. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for this organization. For as incredible as this year was, I know it can only get better from here.


Dance for a Chance & IgKnight Hope – Dance Marathon 2013!

By Laura Riley ’14

“If there’s one cause that everyone can support together, it’s children. I see this event as a way to bring people together. These children are fighting for their lives every day. Our goal for this event is to make it like their Christmas.” – Ryan Engesser ’15, Dance Marathon Co-President

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Ryan Engesser ‘15 regarding the upcoming campus event, Dance Marathon, which will be taking place on November 2nd. Last year, as a first semester sophomore, Ryan decided that he wanted to create an event that would bring the St. Norbert Community together for one cause. “I took a step back and thought about the big picture. My primary goals were to inspire others and get as many students involved as possible,” said Ryan. He began by talking with a variety of faculty and staff on campus to figure out potential options. After meeting with Jennifer Nissen, Assistant Director of the Sturzl Center for Community Service and Learning, he decided on Dance Marathon. While working at Iowa State University, Jennifer had been the adviser for Dance Marathon and felt it was exactly the type of event Ryan was looking for.

The 2013 Dance Marathon Crew! Ryan Engesser pictured bottom left.
The 2013 Dance Marathon Crew! Ryan Engesser pictured bottom left.

Dance Marathon is essentially two things, an event and a campus organization. The St. Norbert organization consists of about 35 students who are responsible for planning and managing the comprehensive event, a daylong fundraising celebration. Three co-presidents lead the group and include Ryan Engesser, Nicole Haupert, and Rebecca Liming. “We would not be where we are at now if it weren’t for the two of them leading the group as well. Dance Marathon is too big to have only one person leading and I wouldn’t have anyone else by my side to put this event together. They have really become the heart and soul of the group,” said Ryan.

Since March, the students have been holding fundraisers, recruiting student participants and planning event logistics which include 13.1 hours of games, entertainment and of course dancing! Recently they even performed a flash mob in front of Main Hall. All of this for the purpose of raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, a non-profit organization that raises funds for more than 170 children’s hospitals. They are the only national children’s charity committed to having 100% of the funds raised stay local to support local kids. St. Norbert’s event will benefit the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. The following video explains the story of how Dance Marathon began and its overall mission.

This entire process began with meetings between Ryan and Jennifer during the spring semester. They went through the logistical process of creating the student organization, they gauged student interest, and ultimately built the foundation for the event. Since it is a nationwide movement, there is a basic outline for the event. The core elements include:
1. All participants must stay on their feet throughout the duration of the event. St. Norbert’s is a “half marathon” at 13.1 hours.
2. All dancers will be taught a “morale dance” at the beginning of the celebration and this will be performed every hour, on the hour.
What exactly goes into the celebration is up to the individual organization. Since the beginning of this year, Ryan and the entire Dance Marathon group have been dedicated to creating this into one of the largest events on campus to fulfill the original mission of bringing the St. Norbert community together for one cause. The group has enjoyed planning the event and is excited to see the culmination of their passion and dedication on November 2nd.

The biggest concern Ryan had when starting the group was retention of members. “It’s easy to attract students initially, but the long-term engagement aspect is difficult. I always try to focus on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. We can’t start a meeting until I ask ‘Why do we do it?’ and everyone responds with “For the kids!” And we end our meetings like that as well.”

The Dance Marathon group has been hard at work gathering sponsorships and donations for the event. Sponsors include: Nicolet Bank, Gallagher’s Pizza, Great Harvest Bread, Fraluz, St. Norbert Catering and Events and LightHouse Productions.

Eight children who have received, or are currently receiving treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin will be attending the event with their families. The families will be speaking throughout the day and participating in the day’s events. In addition to dancing, the event will include an opening ceremony, the morale dance, speeches by each of the families, theme hours such as Disney and Luau, Dance Team & Cheerleading Team routines, and a special surprise for everyone who stays until the end.

There are currently 280 registered participants and by the registration deadline the hope is to have at least 300 students registered. If you are a St. Norbert student and would like to register for the event, please click here. Registration ends on Monday, October 28th. The only required cost is a $15 registration fee which will help cover the three provided meals and t-shirt. The suggested personal fundraising goal for all participants is $75, but there is no fundraising requirement.

To date, through fundraising efforts done by the Dance Marathon Organization, as well as the 260 individual participants, fundraising totals stand above $12,000! With an original goal of $20,000, they are well on their way with over a week left to fund raise. If you are not a student, but are a member of the St. Norbert Community, you are welcome to check out the event at any time. If you are interested in supporting the cause, there will be a donation table at the event.

“If there’s one cause that everyone can support together, it’s children. I see this event as a way to bring people together. These children are fighting for their lives every day. Our goal for this event is to make it like their Christmas. We want it to be one day where they don’t have to worry about their illness. Where they can just show up and be a kid. Enjoy life as it is and not worry. The best way to do that is through dancing. People are able to express themselves through dancing. We want to create those smiles. Whether you’re good or bad…come and shake what you got. When a bunch of people come together and dance, it creates an inspirational energy. That’s what this event is all about. One of the biggest things people say is that 13.1 hours is too hard to do. Yeah, it’s gonna hurt. But it’s not gonna hurt when you’re dancing and you look down [to a child] and there’s the reason you’re doing this. It’s gonna be worth it.” – Ryan Engesser ’15

Dance for a Chance. IgKNIGHT hope. And join the cause on November 2nd!