Featuring Dean of Students Lori Berquam’s hot pink hair, the sixth annual madiTHON brought students and campus community members together to “dance because they can and stand for those who can’t” Saturday at Memorial Union.

The 12-hour celebration, presented by the Wisconsin Dance Marathon, challenges students to stay on their feet, dancing and engaging in the numerous activities to raise money for patients and families at American Family Children’s Hospital. The event raised $49,644.92 in donations.

Jeff Poltawsky, administrator and vice president at the Children’s Hospital, has worked with the marathon since it began and said over the years the group has begun integrating patients and their families into the event.

The year’s featured family was Madison natives, David Mahoney and his daughter, Lulu. Lulu, now five years old, was diagnosed with liver cancer when she was three. David Mahoney said he and his wife never left Lulu the entire week she spent at the Children’s Hospital undergoing tests and eventually receiving surgery.

Poltawsky said the hospital relies on donations from the marathon to fund various services that directly impact families who stay at the hospital for long periods of time, like the Mahoneys. Some of the services include a meal program and comfort kits to distract the children during treatment, he said.

Students involved in madiTHON have been working since fall to be sure the night would run smoothly, planning activities down to a five-minute increment, Shannel Gaillard, the Dance Marathon entertainment director, said. 

One of the first events of the night included the highly anticipated revealing of Berquam’s temporarily pink spray-dyed hair. According to Operations Facility Manager, Jonah Grant, the new look was the result of a deal the two had made prior to the event.

“After I had reached my goal, I wanted to raise more money so I made a deal with my peers that if I raised $500 I’d die my hair pink,” Grant said. “I contacted Lori through email and made a proposition that if I raised $1,000 she would die her hair pink.”

Grant said he met his goal and Berquam came through with her side of the deal Saturday.

Berquam said madiTHON demonstrates the willingness UW students have to donate time over the weekend to a healthy fundraiser for a good cause.

“It’s a selfless action that brings to the forefront an opportunity for students to be here together,” Berquam said.

One of the executive board members, Meredith Wesley, has a long history with the marathon. Her father, Kirk Wesley, said their family has been involved with the marathon since 2000 when they were the featured family at Iowa University’s Dance Marathon while their youngest daughter Abigail was receiving treatment at the university hospital.

Both Meredith and her older sister, Olivia, have served on the executive board for Dance Marathon at UW, Wesley said. They were excited to find out UW hosted the program, he said.

Since the program began in 2008, students involved in the marathon have raised more than $300,000 through the 12-hour dance-a-thon.

Grant said madiTHON is striving to attain the same kind of success Dance Marathon has had on campuses like Northwestern and Penn State, noting that Penn State has raised $13 million thus far.

Berquam challenged students in attendance to bring 10 friends to next year’s event in hopes this will become an event that students anticipate going to in the future.

“If you can commit with me, I will commit to be back here in whatever color hair you want me to have so that we can really make madiTHON the best in at least the upper Midwest,” Berquam said.


Rachael Lallensack contributed reporting to this article.