‘Dawgathon’ to serve East TN Children’s Hospital with exciting new way to fundraise

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Kate Myers

Dawgathon club members work on plans for next semester's big fundraising event.

Abby Ann Ramsey, Editor-in-Chief

A new Bearden club has been created solely to support a local charity, and all their efforts throughout the year will culminate in an entertaining, rewarding night in late March.

Dawgathon is a club that directly serves East Tennessee Children’s Hospital by raising money throughout the year and ending their fundraising with one major event: a dance marathon.

Co-presidents Cross Fuller, Katie Taylor, and Natalie Rice are currently members of the Youth Leadership Knoxville Class of 2020, a selective leadership program that chooses high school juniors from across the city to participate in leadership seminars and community service activities.

Over the summer, the three Bearden students toured East Tennessee Children’s Hospital with Youth Leadership Knoxville and were informed by Children’s Hospital Marketing Specialist Sarah Urbanski that the University of Tennessee hosts a “VOLthon” every year where they invite students to participate in a dance marathon to benefit the hospital. Not only does UTK do this, but the students realized that a number of universities including Auburn, Georgia, and Harvard have had their own dance marathons to support local children’s hospitals.

“I was just like, ‘You know, I don’t want to just get involved. I kind of want to start something and kind of revolutionize this, so how can I do that?’” Fuller said. “Let’s bring it to Bearden High School.”

After hearing about it, Fuller reached out to Urbanski and teamed up with Taylor and Rice who have since been working together to make a “Dawgathon” possible.

Although it seems like this club is simply putting on one big event, they actually work throughout the year to raise as much money as possible for the hospital. They have about 60 members already and meet once a week to not only plan the main event but also brainstorm how they can donate as much money as possible. 

So far, the club has had percentage nights at Blaze, Sonic, Moe’s, and Main Event, and they have also sold buttons at Bearden football games. Additionally, they plan on hosting a “Winter Wonderland” at Bearden in January, which will include winter games and movies.

Every penny they make from their fundraisers is donated directly to the hospital.

“It’s not like ‘oh, we’re raising money for us to go give part of it to them,’ but it all goes to them,” co-director of fundraising Kate Myers said.

Every member of the club values authenticity in each aspect of the work they do, which is obvious through their commitment to make a difference in children’s lives.

“Anything that you do where you’re putting service before yourself, I think, is beyond human nature,” Fuller said. “We’re always focused on… ‘I have this, I want that.’ That’s not what this is. What this is is 60 of us are putting our time, our effort into making something that’s bigger than us.”

Fortunately, the Dawgathon members know exactly what the money they raise is going toward, as Children’s Hospital plans to use it for new rooms for children who are born drug-addicted. The club hopes to take a tour soon so that they can tangibly see exactly what the hospital needs and how they are helping. 

Ultimately, all their hard work will culminate in the dance marathon, which is not as tiring as it may sound as it is only from 4-9 p.m., rather than 24 hours long. It will be on March 29, 2020, at Bearden High School and will feature guest speakers who have seen the results of the hospital’s hard work, as well as some musical guests that will remain a surprise for now.

At the end of the day, Dawgathon hopes to create a trend of clubs serving their community and standing up for a cause that they strongly believe in.

“So kids who can’t stand, who have cancer, who have Leukemia, like we’re standing for them, we’re raising awareness for them because they can’t have the same opportunities as us,” Fuller said. “So just that alone, you know the charity aspect of it really paints the picture of why it’s such a good cause.”