Less than a week away, HuskyTHON begins to feel "real"

Last year's HuskyTHON, a yearlong fundraising effort that benefits Connecticut Children's Hospital, was on March 8, 2015. Over 2,400 students participated and raised a record amount for the hospital: $560,104. (Daily Campus Video)

The University of Connecticut’s HuskyTHON will take place at the Hugh S. Greer Field House February 20 at 6 p.m. to February 21 at 12 p.m. The 18-hour event has been a year in the making and serves as a unifying force for the UConn community, centered around the kids at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

“We’ve been working all year for this event. It’s finally starting to feel like it’s real,” said Molly Leahy, co-executive director of HuskyTHON and a senior speech language and hearing sciences major.

The fundraiser is created to be a night the kids will never forget. “A lot of them will tell us that HuskyTHON is better than Christmas for them,” Leahy went on to say. “Everything we try and do and try and plan for is for the kids…so that they can have the best night possible.”

We’ve been working all year for this event. It’s finally starting to feel like it’s real.
— Molly Leahy, co-executive director of HuskyTHON

Leahy described this year’s event as being very similar to last year’s. At the top of every hour while the kids are there, many families of the children share their “miracle stories,” recounting their stories and experiences at the hospital.

These stories give people a more in-depth look regarding what they’re raising money for, since all of the proceeds go to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, according to Leahy.

Students dance the morale dance at last year's HuskyTHON. (File photo/Daily Campus)

Students dance the morale dance at last year's HuskyTHON. (File photo/Daily Campus)

Most of the kids who attend the event are young, around 5 to 7 years old, and embrace it with surprising zeal, despite the presence of many older adults.

“That would have been something that’s really intimidating for me,” said Leahy, “It’s just so fun for them. It’s really inspiring to sort of see how comfortable they are and how even though they’ve gone through so much- how they are so strong and so full of life.”

The kids come in at 6 p.m. by walking through the “morale tunnel,” where everyone’s name gets announced. They can stay there the whole night if they’d like, although most leave around 9 or 10 p.m. However, though most of the children leave, the students remain throughout the night.

It’s really inspiring to sort of see how comfortable [the kids] are and how even though they’ve gone through so much- how they are so strong and so full of life
— Molly Leahy, co-executive director of HuskyTHON

Most of the students at the event signed up as dancers, which entails staying the full 18 hours and pledging to raise a minimum of $150 for the cause, according to Leahy. The fundraising has been done on their own through methods of reaching out to friends and family or “canning,” which is when one solicits donations from the public. People on average people can get around $300 an hour when canning at events like basketball games outside of Gampel Pavilion, said Leahy. There are also student volunteers at the event who are required to raise $75 and work 3-hour shifts at a time.

The medical conditions of the children are not announced unless their family decides to include that information in their “miracle stories,” but the spirit of the event, which is infused by the children’s optimism, is uplifting for both the students who participate and, most importantly, the kids.

“It’s all about attitude and these kids have been through probably more than a lot of us will ever go through—and they still have a better attitude than most people in that field house that night…It’s all about perseverance, having a good attitude and a good smile, life will sort of go your way,” said Leahy. 


Brett Steinberg is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at brett.steinberg@uconn.edu. He tweets @OfficialBrett.