Just Dance! FTK Dance Marathon raises over $40,000 for childhood cancer assistance


For the Kids (FTK), the largest UTSA organization and largest student-led philanthropic group in San Antonio, raised a total of $40,455.63 during their fourth annual 18-hour dance marathon, which started at 7 p.m. Friday, April 5 and ended at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 6. The funds benefit, the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, and families with children battling cancer. This year’s total was a $5,000 increase from last year’s dance marathon.
Established by the Leadership Challenge class in 2009, FTK’s purpose is to create strong leaders through hands-on experience running an organization. This year, however, FTK is transitioning from a registered student organization on campus to a full non-profit organization in San Antonio.
“It all started because we wanted to make a difference,” said Andy Linares, morale overall chairperson with FTK. “Yes, we’re college students; yes, we’re getting degrees, but having the ability to do something bigger than yourself—it adds meaning,” Linares said.
FTK operates on a small budget, funded by membership and operational donations. All other funding is passed directly on to the allocation committee, which is made up of FTK members and doctors from the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.
“Families battling childhood cancer are the prime beneficiaries of FTK,” said Linares. “FTK is here to maximize the money that goes to the kids, so all the donated money goes straight to them.”
Linares explained that the money goes directly to the families’ personal needs, not to scientific research, and helps with anything from gas to utility bills. “It’s basically an emergency fund because parents miss work. We want the family to focus on the child and worry less about the bills.”
The marathon consisted of dancers, those who stand for the entire 18-hour period; moralers, those who provide support and encouragement for the dancers; volunteers, those who help with jobs from security to food dispersal; and lastly, the families directly benefitted by the funds.
This year, there were 210 dancers, and according to Linares, almost half of the dancers came from different schools. The dance marathon brought in Terry Scholars from all over the state and interest from all over West Texas.
“Participating in FTK meant everything to me,” said Zack Dunn, who volunteered as a moraler during the event. “Their cause and how they go about working towards that goal is something that I truly admire and am inspired by.”
“It’s a roller coaster—high moments, low moments,” Linares said . “It’s a spiritual journey for the dancers, moralers, volunteers and everyone in the organization. Even as an FTK chairperson, after three years it still hits me like the first time.”
The event began with a variety show put on by the kids for the dancers, and included an “Athlete Hour,” in which the children were able to hang out with UTSA athletes. The families weren’t present the entire time, but generally stayed through the evening and returned for Family Hour the following morning at 11 a.m.
“The kids have so much energy—you can’t believe they have cancer,” said Linares. “It’s wonderful because they get to leave the hospital and be a kid again.”
During Family Hour, families with children battling cancer shared their experiences with the dancers, who, at that point, had been standing for 16 hours. While the mood was more somber, dancers are fueled and energized by the stories shared and motivated to continue, Linares said.
The Big Reveal, which happened promptly at 1 p.m. Saturday, announced the total funds raised by the event and culmination of the year.
FTK members host a variety of other events year-round to raise funds and childhood cancer awareness. They host a fashion show in the fall, Zumba sessions each semester, flash mobs and other energizing events “to get people excited for the marathon,” according to Linares.
Each year’s events are given an overall theme, with this year’s being “Believe in Possibilities,” announced at the “Hero in You” fashion show this past November.
“It was an honor to stand with my fellow Roadrunners in the fight against childhood cancer, and it was all because of the vision and hard work of FTK here at UTSA,” said Dunn.
“We’re not scientists or doctors, but we are students that can cause change,” said Linares. “With the help of our community, we can give these families hope that one day we will vanquish cancer. Until then, we will continue to believe in possibilities and keep on dancing.”