Sorority sponsors 12-hour dance marathon for afflicted children

The Phi Mu sorority held a dance marathon to benefit the Childrens Miracle Network

Eric Coulter

The Phi Mu sorority held a dance marathon to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network

Susie Skowronek

The day Ben TherAvest was born with his mouth and nose conjoined, his doctors said they could repair the defect. The next day, they alerted his mother to an additional problem, with her son’s heart.

“Usually when there’s one thing wrong, there’s more,” said Cathy TherAvest, who told the story of her son at the Dance Marathon Saturday night.

Although Ben went home several days after his birth, five weeks later a problem with his heart brought him back for closed heart surgery. He got his lips at 15 months and had open-heart surgery for his second birthday. He is only the third living child with this yet-to-be-named syndrome.

But through the surgeries performed at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Ben has survived.

About 160 participants gathered in the Grand River Room of the Kirkhof Center on Grand Valley State University’s Allendale Campus to raise awareness and funds for children like Ben from 2 p.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday. The final tally showed $4,461 collected through the event, and Phi Mu, the sorority that sponsored the event, will continue to collect donations through Sunday evening.

In a by-the-book dance marathon, a dancer from each team must be dancing at all times. However, marathon organizers did not make rule interpretation a goal for this year.

“We’re not too strict about the dance marathon regulations,” said Megan Marthens, marathon coordinator. “We care more about the experience and the community.”

The evening featured children’s songs played during a kid’s hour, live oldies and classic rock played by Three’s a Crowd and a fraternity band.

The five teams registered prior to the event and other groups who came throughout the night earned points toward the spirit star prize, taken home by Erin Folkmier, who stood and danced for the entire 12-hour event.

At the heart of the evening and the front of the Grand River Room, dancers kept the room active for the sick children of West Michigan.

“You’re not just dancing, you’re here saving lives,” said Jamon Alexander, a GVSU graduate who now works with the Children’s Miracle Network for Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “The Children’s Miracle Network doesn’t just ask for big checks. When you combine $5 with millions of people, it can make a difference.”

The Children’s Miracle Network is a national affiliation of hospitals that coordinates fundraising activities on a large scale and distributes funds on a local level. The Grand Rapids beneficiary of the network is the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

Proceeds from the Dance Marathon will fund special units such as the Center for Child Protection, which provides health care for abused and neglected children, and provide medical equipment for the hospital such as blood pressure cuffs for the nine-pound infants to the high school linebackers.

At the children’s hospital, 98 percent of the patients’ families do not have adequate insurance to cover medical expenses, Alexander said.

“For every kid we treat, we lose money,” he said. “If we didn’t have people like Phi Mu raising money, we wouldn’t be able to have things like the Center for Child Protection.”

Phi Mu will accept funds for the Children’s Miracle Network until Sunday. Donations can be made at

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