Kids Shine Brightest at 10th Anniversary of Texas THON

A sea of more 400 UT students clad in teal T-shirts, sunglasses, and neon headbands grooved to music and participated in active events in Gregory Gymnasium over the weekend. The students tried their best to keep up with the energetic children, the stars of the evening.

The evening marked the 10th anniversary of Texas THON, formerly known as the Texas Dance Marathon, an annual event organized primarily by UT students with the aid of their advisor, Rhonda Cox, to raise money for Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas.

The majority of the participating students from UT campus groups such as Texas Lassos, Texas Lonestars, and Texas Spirits. Though each participant met the challenge of raising $100 to benefit Dell, the real challenge was to dance, play basketball, and do anything to remain standing for the entire 12-hour event. Texas THON isn’t just a dance, a fundraiser, a day of activities, or a student service project—it’s a celebration.

THON is a celebration of kids like Marlie Frasier, a 12-year-old dancing fanatic whose legs were crushed by an out-of-control vehicle. Marlie toughed out a fever to stand the entire day alongside the other THON participants. “I really want to lie down, but I won’t,” Marlie admitted to the crowd. “Because I want to be like you guys…The pain you feel takes the pain away from the kids. It helps.”

Along with Marlie, Caleb Durden, a basketball and football-loving fourth grader with Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP), a blood platelet disorder, eventually took a break from dominating the basketball court to perform “Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars on the karaoke platform. “He has a great time coming to events like this,” Andre Durden, Caleb’s father, said. He added with a laugh, “He also really loves Bruno Mars.” That much was obvious, as Caleb’s THON admirers sung and swayed their arms to the rhythm of the song.

Caleb’s performance was a tough act to follow, but if anyone was up to the challenge, it was Sara Pacheco, a 7-year-old who recently went into full remission after battling Burkitt’s Lymphoma, a rare and aggressive form of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma typically found in younger people.

Sara’s youthful energy may have single-handedly helped push the THON participants through the final hour. After the final group dance, Sara continued with a solo dance extravaganza, beckoning other dancers to join her onstage. Fearlessly, she commandeered the microphone from the emcee’s hands and proclaimed, “You guys are awesome!”

As the 12th hour came to an end, the THON dancers formed a large circle in the gym while Marlie, Caleb, and Sara walked around and cut medical bracelets from the dancers’ wrists. Two hundred of the dancers wore bracelets inscribed with the name of one of the three kids. The moment symbolized the 12-hour standing dancers’ victory and hope for children like Marlie, Caleb, and Sara.

In 2003, its first year, THON raised $12,000. This year, thanks in part to an anonymous donor who matched $1 for every $2 raised, THON brought in nearly $51,000 for Dell Children’s. Watching how much joy was brought to Marlie, Caleb, and Sara, it’s easy to understand why the event motto is FTK, “For the Kids.”

Photo courtesy UT RecSports.


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