Thirteen signs each held by a student in disbelief, altogether indicating a ridiculous amount of money: $1,520,234.98 to be precise.
I remember seeing this photo for the first time as a UConn freshman, with the realization that I had entered an institution capable of making such an impact. Well-over a million dollars was raised for HuskyTHON 2020 and the same would happen for the two years that followed. Of course, we are all aware of what happened between those two years. Yet, despite the pandemic, HuskyTHON continued as a beacon of unified capability.
For newer students, perhaps the concept of HuskyTHON remains vague, or you might not have heard of it at all. Fortunately, the organization’s operations are far from complex, centered around a single mission dedicated to children.
“In a simple sense, HuskyTHON is an 18-hour dance marathon in which more than 3,500 UConn students come together to raise money and celebrate the kids who are treated at our local children’s hospital, Connecticut Children’s,” executive director John Leahy’s online statement reads. “But it is much more than that.”
Although the marathon is largely considered its main event, HuskyTHON is moreso a culmination of efforts and activities, which are eventually commemorated by a full 18 hours of dancing. While the event is slated for some time during the spring semester, fundraising usually begins earlier in the academic year.
To fuel interest levels in advance, HuskyTHON partnered with USG to host a kickoff event at Fairfield Way on Aug. 28. The press release mentioned festivities including “food, merchandise, games, activities and live music.”
Three weeks later, registration week began this past Monday.
Each day of the week is planned to cater to different year groups, with specific themes to go along with each category. For example, Sept. 19 was Merch Monday (for seniors), Sept. 20 was Treat Yourself Tuesday (for juniors) and today, Sept. 21 is Why Wednesday (for sophomores). Tomorrow will be Thursday Threads (for freshmen) and Flashback Friday is meant to cater toward alumni.
Registration week takes place Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fairfield Way. Students and alumni from all campuses are allowed to register.
As for its year-long plans, future HuskyTHON events will revolve around the topic of children’s health, which include celebrating Child Health Day — a nationally recognized holiday which falls on Oct. 3 this year — and the org’s “United As One” day, along with its Day of Strength.
“I would also like to emphasize that while one of our biggest priorities is fundraising, we aren’t blind to the fact that we have to educate our participants on the many health disparities going on in our world in order to make that fundraising as successful as it can be,” said Tess Penders, a seventh-semester marketing major and vice president of communications for HuskyTHON.
With the decline of COVID-19 restrictions, the org is optimistic about operating under close-to-normal circumstances. However, that proved to be difficult during the virus’ peak.
“The pandemic had a great effect on basically everything, including HuskyTHON,” Penders said. “We had to move the event to be virtual in 2021, so a lot of the internal team was able to go to the event in different shifts, but it was broadcasted virtually that year. And of course, just because of a lack of cause connection and a lack of general finances going around, our fundraising did decrease a little bit. Then this past year, obviously we brought it back up which was awesome, but as everyone is, we’re still working towards pre-pandemic success.”
Penders made sure to clarify the meaning behind cause connection.
“Cause connection initiatives are essentially events and activities that we use to ensure our entire HuskyTHON community is united around one goal,” Penders said. “It connects our participants with our mission, and broadens our impact.”
Despite the org’s optimism, it’s still too early to tell whether the year will truly operate under pre-pandemic mode, especially in regards to the actual dance marathon which was incidentally hosted outdoors last year.
“We don’t know exactly what this year is going to look like yet,” Penders said. “That will be announced sometime before the spring event happens, but we definitely still try to keep COVID in mind in all that we do by following the general rules of the color codes that our county is in and everything like that. We do our best to stay conscious, but we’re hoping to have as normal of a year as we possibly can.”
Founded in 1999, HuskyTHON was originally known as “Midnight Marathon.” It raised $13,000 in its first year, which in comparison to the $1,340,671 that was announced in April, speaks volumes on how much the org has grown in two decades. According to Penders, not only is HuskyTHON the largest student-run philanthropy organization in the state, it is also the largest-run dance marathon in the Northeast. Leahy, however, made sure to comment that its goal has stayed permanent.
“Though the size and scope of our organization has drastically changed, our mission has remained the same: we fight each day for the kids who can’t,” Leahy’s statement reads.
Penders added to his words.
“While we are so proud of what we’ve accomplished, our work is far from over,” she said. “As long as kids and families need our help, we’ll be there to support them.”
Resources can be found on various social media platforms via @HuskyTHON, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. Registration week is an additionally helpful event to learn more about involvement.
Be sure to visit the HuskyTHON website for more information.