The UConn community gathered together in-person and virtually for HuskyTHON 2021 and raised over one million dollars for the kids and families of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. In its 22nd year of operation, HuskyTHON once again solidified its place as one of the top Miracle Network Dance Marathons nationwide.
The year-long fundraising efforts were led by the Management Team and the Morale Captains who continued to rally the UConn community together and were instrumental in overcoming the many obstacles created by the coronavirus pandemic. The event remains as one of the largest student-run philanthropy efforts in the state.
“There’s definitely been a lot of different challenges this year with HuskyTHON being virtual, but I think it’s also provided us a lot of opportunities to bring together the community in a really difficult year for everyone in general,” Alexa Glaude, an eighth-semester accounting major, said.
Glaude served as the co-director of donation management alongside Beau DeMelo. Glaude and DeMelo were in charge of offline donations, which includes checks, canning money and other forms of physical monetary donations. She commended the UConn community for being creative with their fundraising efforts to ensure that HuskyTHON 2021 was a success.
“People have been getting really creative and it’s been really amazing to see,” Glaude said.
This creativity came in the form of polar plunges, dying hair, partnering with organizations, like Positive Tracks, and many other tactics that allowed participants to bring in donations, with social media serving as the primary way of getting the word out. Even UConn President Tom Katsouleas joined in and pledged to do a polar plunge if over two thousand dollars was raised during ‘Power Hour.’ Following a successful hour of fundraising, Katsouleas took the plunge into Coventry Lake and the video was shared on the HuskyTHON Instagram page.
“Social media has become our best friend when it comes to getting the word out and campaigns,” Nicole Wiggins, an eighth-semester education major, said.
Wiggins served as the director of media and, due to the limitations placed on in-person events, she said social media became the primary means of communication leading up to HuskyTHON 2021. The HuskyTHON social media account was pouring out a continuous stream of posts to shoutout top fundraisers, share information about when events were taking place and reveal the final fundraising total.
“We’ve had to make a lot of changes to our usual fundraising efforts this year due to COVID-19,” Wiggins said. “The main change was transforming to a mainly virtual platform and spreading our mission to our community and those newly registered dancers who haven’t experienced a typical year.”
HuskyTHON Rising Leaders is a leadership program that was created for first-time participants. It gives them the chance to see what goes on behind the scenes leading up to HuskyTHON and sets them up for success if they choose to apply for leadership positions within the organization in the future.
“This program allows us to ignite a flame in the first years for this life-changing organization and encourage them to find a passion for this extraordinary experience for Connecticut Children’s, inevitably shaping the future of HuskyTHON,” Jamie Waldo, the director of HuskyTHON Rising Leaders, said.
The events for the weekend kicked off on Saturday morning with the Morale and Management teams gathering in-person on the Student Union Lawn and virtually through a livestream to do the first of 18 dances on the top of each hour. Many of the other events for the weekend were held virtually so that people at home could still participate. Participants had the opportunity to attend fun virtual events like a Q&A with Jason Derulo, caricature drawings, a jeopardy game, scavenger hunts and a rave hour with DJ Rubin.
“What’s amazing about this community is that people still understand that with a virtual year for us, these kids are getting diagnosed and receiving treatments each and every day … Our participants know that and continued to rally on and fundraise in so many unique ways this year.”Nicole Wiggins, eighth-semester education major
“What’s amazing about this community is that people still understand that with a virtual year for us, these kids are getting diagnosed and receiving treatments each and every day,” Wiggins said. “Our participants know that and continued to rally on and fundraise in so many unique ways this year.”
In the final hours leading up to the big reveal, the morale stayed high and the UConn community made one last fundraising push to reach a total of $1,052,534.21, a remarkable achievement given the less-than-ideal circumstances due to COVID-19.
“It is incredibly empowering to see a community come together, in the middle of a global pandemic, and do everything in their power to help the kids and families at Connecticut Children’s,” Wiggins said.
HuskyTHON 2021 demonstrated the unwavering dedication of the UConn community to join together during a time when many individuals are struggling because of COVID-19. The kids and families at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center continue to inspire those around them with their enduring strength and perseverance in times of great adversity.
“This year has shown our community’s resilience and dedication to giving back to others, as well as proving there’s good in the world,” Waldo said.
With HuskyTHON 2021 in the books, the focus has already shifted to next year to continue on the path to creating a better tomorrow #ForTheKids.