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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA students to host informational event for Zonathon

Hailey Eisenbach
Kaylee Stepanski, president of the UA chapter of Zonathon, hands out flyers on the UA mall. Zonathon is a dance marathon fundraiser that benefits Tucson Medical Center for Children.

This Saturday, students will host a preview event for Zonathon, the UA’s first-ever dance marathon, scheduled to take place this November.

The 12-hour marathon will raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network by encouraging volunteers to support this “life-changing organization,” said Kaylee Stepanski, a neuroscience and cognitive science freshman and president of Zonathon.

A full day of games, activities and entertainment is being coordinated to support families in need.

Stepanski said the Zonathon committee members want to make sure that everyone is informed and excited about the marathon, so they are holding an informational event this Saturday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the North Gym of the Student Recreation Center.

“We are really new, so no one knows what it is yet,” Stepanski said. “Some people are like, ‘We can’t dance,’ but you don’t really have to dance. [The event] is about standing on your feet for those who can’t.”

Theresa Delaney, a communications and studio art junior and the public relations chair for Zonathon, said she and her co-organizers are aiming to explain the mission of the event at Saturday’s preview and give people the opportunity to meet the executive board and the families that will be represented from the Tucson Medical Center.

The preview will feature a dance collaboration performed by Wilbur and Wilma Wildcat and the UA’s hip hop crew Black N’ Blue. There will also be various activities led by the Zonathon committees, including face painting and a bean bag toss.

Three families who benefit from the services of the Children’s Miracle Network will also be attending to tell their personal stories, making for “an inspirational and touching experience,” Stepanski said.

The Children’s Miracle Network is “an international nonprofit organization dedicated to raising funds for, and awareness of, children’s hospitals across the country … 100 percent of the money raised will stay in the local community to support its own children’s hospital, which means Tucson Medical Center receives all of the funds raised in Southern Arizona,” according to the Tucson Medical Center website.

Tracey Smalling said she knows firsthand how organizations like this one can change lives. Her family received support from fundraising events like Zonathon when her son, Brandon, was born 16 weeks premature, she said in an email statement.

“Zonathon means more than you can imagine to my family,” Smalling said. “The lifesaving equipment which kept Brandon alive for many weeks of his life was purchased with dollars from Children’s Miracle Network. It is very exciting to have Zonathon at the University of Arizona. Students will have an opportunity to have fun while making miracles happen at the same time.”

However, the UA is not the only university striving to make a difference in lives of children. In February, Arizona State University hosted its first dance marathon, attracting 837 participants to raise money for the Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Stepanski said ASU’s success affected her expectations for the UA event.

“It is really encouraging knowing that they had that many students show up,” Stepanski said. “It is
really cool because it is their first year, and our first year, so it is another rivalry between our two schools. We can be like, ‘Hey, they brought this many dancers, can we bring more than that?’ or ‘Hey, they raised this much money, can we raise more than that?’”

Part of the job of Zonathon’s morale captains is to ask questions like these to excite students and motivate them to get involved.

Furthermore, at dance marathons at universities all across America, it’s traditional for captains to create a morale dance, five to six minutes of original choreography that they then teach to dancers at the event, said Sierrane Gatela, a Zonathon morale captain and freshman studying pre-neuroscience and pre-cognitive science and French.

“Since our event is a preview, we want [those who attend] to witness some of the big aspects of the full marathon,” Gatela said. “We are going to give everyone a taste of the energy of the morale group to inspire the audience to get involved. Morale is basically the energy that keeps the marathon going.”

Although the Zonathon committee is planning lots of entertainment for a fun-filled day, Delaney said the heart and purpose of Zonathon is to help out families in need.

“It is for kids from the Tucson Medical Center,” Delaney said. “I think everyone would agree that they are worth the time and energy. They are real people and you can really understand the struggle that they’ve gone through. We want them to have the most positive experience that they can, and Zonathon is one way to help them do that.”

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