Bowdoin College students Audrey Aitelli, left, and Rodger Heidgerken kick off the Miracle Network Dance Marathon fundraising event held on campus Friday night to benefit Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — Bowdoin College students raised $37,000 for the Barbara Bush Children’s hospitals for a 6-hour Dance Marathon fundraiser Friday.

The Dance Marathon is a movement founded in 1991 benefiting Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, a nonprofit that raises funds and awareness for more than 170 pediatric hospitals across North America. Students work throughout the year to raise money for their local children’s hospital and prepare for the marathon.

Kenzie Dickinson, 5, of Scarborough dances during a Dance Marathon event at Bowdoin College. She has a very rare disorder of the VPS13D gene that causes seizures and frequent visits to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

Bowdoin students raised $23,000 the first year the event was held. Students raised $30,000 last year.

Friday’s marathon was planned by students Kat Henneberger and Bridgid Greed.  Joining in were some children who have been treated at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital.

For students like Audrey Aitelli, of Walnut Creek, California, the benefits of a children’s hospital are clear.

“When I was a sophomore in high school, I got really sick,” she said. “I ended up missing about nine weeks of school and I was diagnosed with an autonomic nervous system disorder called Pots Syndrome.”

She was treated at many children’s hospitals.

“To have access to quality medical care, and medical care that’s not scary but is more child-centered, is really, really important,” she said. “That’s one of the things the Dance Marathon does is we provide a lot of funding for programs at hospitals that make the hospital more inviting for the child.”

The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The money raised through the Dance Marathon helps fund research, purchase equipment and increases patient care with services like the Child Life Program.

That program helps provide coping strategies for patients and plans fun activities in the hospital to bring a sense of normalcy, according to Meaghan McNamara, a philanthropy specialist with the hospital. There is also a hospital-based teacher working with kids to continue their education.

Students learn new dance moves during the Bowdoin College Miracle Network Dance Marathon fundraiser Friday. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

“Audrey came to us and that kind of engagement is just going to be so much more successful as an event because she has that passion and drive and can help motivate her fellow students,” she said. “And she has.”

Aitelli will soon graduate and start working as a researcher at the Radiation Oncology Department at Massachusetts General Hospital next fall. But she expects the event will continue at Bowdoin College. Bates College in Lewiston has also started its own Dance Marathon and Aitelli hopes more colleges will follow.

“It’s really cool that college students are able to have that large of an impact,” Aitelli said.

The Bowdoin College Miracle Network Dance Marathon program culminated with a 6-hour celebration Friday that raised $37,167 this year for the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital. Photo courtesy of Audrey Aitelli

 

 

 

 

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