Starting from March 22, members of the NJIT community came together for Miracle Madness, a week-long philanthropic event organized by HighlanderThon. This student-run organization is part of a larger movement of dance marathons fundraising for Children’s Miracle Network, an international non-profit organization dedicated to providing financial and emotional support for the children and families treated at children’s hospitals.
In the past, HighlanderThon would host an annual in-person 12-hour dance marathon at NJIT. In 2019, the group fundraised $26,763.05. However, due to the pandemic, all events have gone virtual for the second year in a row.
“COVID-19 has definitely impacted the outreach of HighlanderThon, but through this, the board and members of HighlanderThon have done their absolute best to adjust to the circumstances and raise as many funds for the Children’s Specialized Hospital which is always our priority. From virtual events with club involvement and much of our fundraising being social media based, we have adjusted well,” said Paula Kaczynski, third year biology major. As the Student Life Relations Chair of HighlanderThon, she played an instrumental role in increasing involvement among the NJIT community by forming network connections among the numerous clubs and organizations on campus.
“Student organization participation was vital in increasing the fundraising capacity for Miracle Madness,” continued Kaczynski. “The Art Club stepped up on Drawing Day to teach participants how to draw Woody from Toy Story, and as always we are thankful for any participation!”
Other activities throughout the week-long event included a “bet day” where individuals were allowed to dare a member after making a donation, an Among Us tournament where individuals competed for gift card prizes, and a day dedicated purely for fundraising.
Despite the pandemic, this year’s fundraiser is going strong. As of the first week of April, the organization has raised about $9,000, according to fourth year biology major and HighlanderThon Finance Director Mehak Farukh.
“We’re still in the process of fundraising and we’ll be doing so until about April 23rd. Up until now, we’re doing similar to how we were doing last year, despite the challenges of the pandemic,” said Farukh.
“We expect this to go up significantly the week of April 19th since that will be our main event week. We will be doing many more fundraising pushes then. As for activities that have raised the most funds, it’s actually been social media pushes that have done the best. We’ve had a few social media fundraising push days the past couple of months, where people post fundraising templates to their social media and spread the word about HighlanderThon. Due to COVID-19, social media has been our best friend.”
HighlanderThon is active on various social media platforms to promote their fundraising events and educate followers about Children’s Specialized Hospital and the children they are supporting (referred to as “miracle kids”). Every week, the organization’s Instagram (@highlanderthon) highlights the patient story of different “miracle kids,” who have smiles on their faces despite the challenges they faced, such as brain tumors, cerebral palsy and life-threatening blood clots.
“Everything we do here at HighlanderThon is for the Children’s Specialized Hospital,” said Kaczynski. “Every penny collected is given to support the hospital which in return supports the families of the children. HighlanderThon is only as strong as the community that makes it up, and here at NJIT we do our part. I am grateful to be a part of an organization that is so selfless and beneficial to the communities around us.”