RebelTHON Fundraiser Again Exceeds Expectations

UM dance marathon raises more than $265,000 for Blair E. Batson Children's Hospital

UM students dance the night away at this year’s RebelTHON benefit, raising a record $265,912 for the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The annual RebelTHON dance marathon at the University of Mississippi exceeded all expectations from years past by raising a record-breaking $265,912.30 to aid children in need of medical treatments.

After last year’s fundraising goal of $150,000 was exceeded by nearly $20,000, the RebelTHON committee set a goal of $225,000 to benefit the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital at the UM Medical Center. As the marathon came to an end at 3 a.m. Sunday (Feb. 25), many participants and family members anxiously awaited as the committee took the stage to announce that the latest goal was exceeded by $40,000.

“Last year, we were at a much smaller place in the Turner Center, and this year we were able to be in the Tad Pad for the event, which was so much better,” said Hailey Cooper, a UM senior from Madison and 2017-18 RebelTHON president. “It was much bigger, and we had more miracle families that came, and had gotten more registrants than we have had in quite a few years.”

As the event began at 3 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 24) at the Tad Smith Coliseum, Ole Miss students began a 12-hour nonstop dance marathon, during which they were only able to kneel as they listened to families and patients share their mesmerizing stories. At the beginning of each hour, different themes were set to keep the participants’ energy high.

Aside from dancing, UM students played games with visiting children from Batson and wrote uplifting notes to those children who were not able to attend.

With the students’ energy radiating through the Tad Pad, many brought multiple outfit changes to match the set theme for each hour of the marathon. From face paint and glitter to pajamas and patriotic attire, the students kept the atmosphere limitless all night.

“RebelTHON has been a resounding success story for our university, with this year reaching a whole new level of excellence,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “There is something particularly rewarding about student-led service and fundraising, especially for such a noble and worthwhile cause as the Blair Batson Children’s Hospital.

“It is a tremendous reflection of our students’ passion and commitment to having a positive impact in the world and resonates with our flagship mission of building healthy and vibrant communities.”

Nicki Dunaway, of Vicksburg, attended RebelTHON with her daughter Hannah, who was diagnosed with cystic hygroma, or recurring nonmalignant tumors, and has endured 40 surgeries since she was just 6 days old.

“We have seen what the money goes to, and it’s inspiring to see how devoted everyone is,” Dunaway said. “We will always be grateful, and the money goes to such a wonderful cause, and it really does save lives. We will never be able to thank everyone enough.”

Last year, the money raised went toward the renovation of the hospital’s Children’s Cancer Clinic, which had not been updated since the 1990s.

“They have been planning this event since the end of last year’s event,” said Andrew Russell, Children’s Miracle Network coordinator at Batson. “This year, the money will go to the new building, which is a $180 million project. It will have a new heart center, PICU and some operating rooms as well.”

Batson Children’s Hospital averages 9,000 admissions a year, and nearly 80,000 children are treated in its clinics and emergency room annually. Patients come from all of Mississippi’s 82 counties to receive comprehensive medical care.

With this week’s RebelTHON a success, the election process of the committee for next year will begin within a few weeks.