Just about every student at the University of Connecticut is aware of, has donated to or even participated in HuskyTHON. But for those who unfamiliar with it, according to its website, HuskyTHON is a year-long philanthropic effort at UConn during which student participants raise money and awareness for Connecticut Children’s Hospital. HuskyTHON culminates in an 18-hour long dance marathon that, this year, will begin on April 2.
UConn is not the only school to participate in such a fundraising event — other schools like The Ohio State University, Indiana University, Northwestern University and the University of Iowa all have their own dance marathon events that raise money for children’s hospitals. All of these schools make it known that the event is “for the kids” and all the money raised goes toward a good cause.
It is undeniable that HuskyTHON, and other similar fundraising events, are for a good cause; the money ensures that children and their families can afford the healthcare they need and last year, HuskyTHON raised over $1 million for this cause.
However, it is important to consider the systemic problems with the U.S. healthcare system that HuskyTHON completely glosses over. Children and their families should not have to rely on college students to raise money for necessary and vital healthcare — what should be a human right. HuskyTHON has always been seen as a “feel-good story”; it is comparable to stories like the one about a high school robotics team building an electric wheelchair for a 2-year-old child because insurance did not cover the cost of a similar chair and the one about the teacher in Florida whose colleagues donated their sick days to him out of the goodness of their hearts so that he could complete chemotherapy. These stories encourage faith in humanity and altruism, and make people feel good. However, the dark truth about these stories is that systemic issues are what create them and these problems should not need solving in the first place.
The reality of the situation is that college students from around the country should not have to come together and raise money so that children can have access to healthcare. This is a systemic failure of the U.S.’s healthcare system; it is a system where people cannot afford access to life-saving medications like epinephrine and insulin, where people sometimes use ride-hailing to travel to hospitals because they cannot afford the cost of an ambulance ride and where people try to avoid receiving medical attention altogether due to the sheer cost of it. The U.S. healthcare system is broken and many of these fundraising events, like HuskyTHON, completely ignore this issue altogether.
To an extent, HuskyTHON, and other similar fundraisers at other colleges and universities, help perpetuate these problems. Rather than raising awareness regarding the systemic problems at hand, these events, to put it simply, throw money at the problem. It is a mere Band-Aid on the hemorrhaging wound that is the healthcare system.
Like all feel-good stories, it is then framed as merely a great cause when, in reality, feel-good stories can be quite harmful. Although the act itself may be kind and well-intentioned, feel-good stories often hide these underlying systemic problems altogether, making it so that people are less aware of them. This is the case with HuskyTHON — on the surface, it is for a good cause but it fails to, in any way, address the deeper, systemic failures of the U.S. healthcare system. The perception that the problem — namely that poor people are prevented from necessary medical care — is being solved through individual fundraisers has the potential to direct efforts away from urgent systemic reform.
Rather than solely focusing on the fundraiser element and marketing the event as a feel-good story “for the kids” emphasizing the good HuskyTHON does, HuskyTHON should instead open channels of communication about the systemic failings of the healthcare system in order to spread awareness and create critical discussions on the topic. With more awareness, all students at UConn will have the tools to make more impactful changes in the world while better able to recognize systemic failures and problems prevalent in all facets of the U.S., in addition to healthcare.