What can you do in 18 hours?
From my house in Normal, you can drive to Chicago and back 3 times, depending on traffic.
You can probably read the first few Harry Potter books (they’re not that long).
You can work, eat, and sleep.
Eighteen hours is a lot of time, but it’s not even an entire day. We waste a lot of time in our daily lives doing things that don’t matter much.
How did I spend 18 hours of my life recently? By participating in something extraordinary with some incredible people.
Yes, I was a part of Purdue University Dance Marathon, and I stood for 18 hours for the kids that can’t stand for themselves.
In my current state (less than 4 hours of sleep, sore, and lazy) I can’t even think of the right adjectives to describe what it was like.
Exciting. Entertaining. Crazy. Fun. Inspiring. Emotional. Exhausting.
Despite the aching feet, the bruised knees, the sore calves, the sleepiness…it was all worth it.
So, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, my PUDM 2012 experience.
Friday night was an early to bed kind of night. I had to rest up my body to prepare myself for the impending doom that was 18 hours of standing for PUDM the next day. When I woke up Saturday morning, I couldn’t feel the nerves, but I knew they were there. When had I ever stood for more than a few hours? Waiting in line for a roller coaster at an amusement park is almost never more than 3 hours…this is America! We don’t stand ever. We sit. And eat. But that’s beside the point.
My floor decided that they wanted to play a volleyball game against the 6th floor guys at 2 (check-in for the marathon was at 3). I groaned, internally and externally. Yes, I wanted to play, but no, I didn’t want to exert energy unnecessarily. But, nonetheless, I went to play. I had to pack beforehand since I wasn’t going to have time to go back to Shreve before the marathon, which took place in the Dova. So I filled my backpack with the necessities. And when I say necessities, I mean I didn’t use half the stuff I brought. Better to be safe than sorry!
We played a couple games of volleyball, but I sat out towards the end to conserve my strength. Then, before I knew it, we were on our way to sign in and then we were in the gym, surrounded on all sides by a horde of other dancers, all sitting around and trying to conserve their last bits of strength.
10 minute countdown.
DANCE. (I can’t help but to hear Ke$ha’s voice from the beginning of her song “Blow” when I say this. If you don’t know the song, don’t worry about it; it’s not important.)
I can’t even tell you the order of events from those 18 hours. All sense of time was lost. There were no windows in the gym we were in, so the light couldn’t direct us as to whether it was evening, night, early morning, or what. We tried as hard as we could not to look at our phones and watches. (A watched pot never boils; a watched clock leads to a never ending marathon.) But still we were constantly reminded of just how many hours were left.
The best I can give you is a haphazard list of the things that occurred during the night. I’ll try to categorize them as best I can so your brain isn’t as jumbled as mine is.
To keep us all motivated, it was imperative that we had various entertainment acts throughout the night. These included the following:
- The Purdue GoldDusters
- The Silver Twins (Purdue twirlers)
- Another twirling team
- The Purdue Dance Team
- The co-ed Purdue dance team, Dance 2XS
- The IU acapella group, Another Round, formerly known as Straight No Chaser
- The South Six 5, a band of little boys who sounded like men. It was awesome.
- The Mirror Men-former Purdue students who made the “Boiler Up” music video
- The Riley Talent Show-Riley children performed different routines, like singing and dancing and wheelchair tricks, for our viewing pleasure.
- A hypnotist
- The sororities and fraternities had dance performances called Serenades which were really funny to watch
For a dance marathon, there was surprisingly not as much dancing as one would have expected. But there was a lot.
The two most important aspects of the marathon relating to dancing that you need to know are:
1. We learned a line dance throughout the entire 18 hours, in 6 different parts. Each part had a mash-up of around 8 songs, and each part was between 1 and 2 minutes long, for a total of around a 10 minute dance I’m thinking. Again, I lost all sense of time while I was there, so I honestly couldn’t tell you. There will most likely be a YouTube video of this dance up in the near future, so I’ll try to post it for you when it comes out.
In the beginning, it was exciting. A choreographed dance with around 1,200 people? How cool was that?? But we soon learned that it was not all that it was cracked up to be. The first 2 parts went well…we were full of energy and super pumped to start learning. By the fourth part, we didn’t want anything to do with it. We had thought there were only 5 parts originally, but when we learned there were 6, we wanted to cry. But my friend Dana and I decided that part of our 18 hours of standing should be 18 hours without complaining, so we made a pact that any time one of us complained, we’d slap each other on the hand. What did we have to complain about? We didn’t have medical issues like the kids from Riley. We don’t have to work to make our lives normal. We don’t have children that we have to worry about whether or not they’d see another day. No, we were just standing for 18 hours. We could handle that without complaining.
2. The other awesome dance was the RAVE at 1 am. It came at the perfect time…everyone was starting to get a little worn out, but not too exhausted. We just needed something exciting to keep us going. So, at 1 in the morning, everyone began to crowd together and suddenly we were trapped in a swarm of sweaty, smelly bodies. The techno rave music came on, and we were jumping and yelling and stepping on peoples’ feet and elbowing them and running into them and people were crowd surfing and it was crazy. If it wasn’t chaotic enough, suddenly, glow sticks began flying at us through the air in all directions, raining down on us and smacking us in the heads. There was a mad scramble to collect as many glow sticks as possible, so we were careful to pick them up, lest we get our hands trampled by jumping people. It lasted a good hour, and it was just the pick up we needed to keep going.
Awesome meals from:
- Hot Box pizza
- Panda Express
- Qdoba chips and Jimmy Johns
Periodically throughout the night, Riley families came to the stage to tell their stories. It was always an emotional experience because many of them had a difficult time getting through the stories. Which was completely understandable.
I can’t even imagine the pain theses families have gone through, but I admire their constant hope and determination. With every story, it seemed like a never-ending chain of problems, one after another after another. There was one family with 3 Riley stories: the mom and the 2 children. There was a young girl with Down Syndrome, who also had cancer. Each story was unique, but they all seemed so strong for all they had gone through. It’s amazing how positive these people could be in the midst of such adversity.
For the dancers, we had our own struggles. Each time a Riley family came on stage, we had to take a knee. At first, it seemed like a blessing. Awesome, we get to take a load off our feet and not be technically sitting! …Yeahhhh, no. After awhile, the kneeling became more taxing on our bodies than the standing was. My knees are feeling it today.
When we registered for the marathon, we each got a hospital bracelet with a child’s name and age on it. That’s who we were dancing for this weekend. We couldn’t give up. We had to do this for them.
Shreve actually won an award at PUDM for participation and whatnot. It was pretty exciting to be a part of that!
I hit walls around 4 and 8 in the morning. When there was only half an hour left, we did our final line dance, all 6 parts, all together. It was really neat.
Then came the big reveal of how much money we raised. There was a lot of anticipation. Since PUDM started in 2005, each year has raised a significantly higher amount of money for Riley. And after last year’s $303,000 record, we were worried we wouldn’t be able to make it. So when they did the big reveal and had everyone hold up each individual number on a giant piece of cardboard, we were dismayed to see that the number read, “$328,564.67.” Sure, it was a huge increase from last year, but not what we were expecting. But wait, they said. That’s not right. Suddenly, the girl holding the 3 sign left and it was replaced with a 5. $528,564.67 raised?! Incredible! There was an explosion of cheering and jumping and yelling and hugging and screaming and smiles and hooray we can finally sit down because it’s 10 am.
The group walked back to Shreve about ready to pass out. And that’s what we did when we got to our rooms. I went to bed around 10:30 (Megan was still asleep when I got back) and got up around 2 or so. My legs and feet and knees are so sore, but at least I haven’t been feeling sick like some of the other people who danced. I’ll probably be feeling it in my whole body tomorrow. Thank goodness I get to see my family in 2 days! I cannot WAIT!!!
Thank you to everyone who donated to the cause for this weekend. All the Riley families were so appreciative, and I am too. I’m so glad I got to be a part of this wonderful experience.