The competition is already heating up on campus as organizations go head to head raising money for Knight-Thon, a 20-hour day of dancing that benefits the Greater Orlando Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.
Although not scheduled to take place until March 2015, the almost yearlong effort is already off to a running start. UCF has set its total fundraising goal at $500,000 and campus groups are already working to make that goal a reality.
So far, Alpha Epsilon Phi, a Panhellenic sorority, is in the lead with $3,833.15 — but the chapter is hoping to meet its personal goal of $37,000 in the coming months.
Through fundraising tactics such as posting on Facebook, sending out emails and bucketing around campus, the chapter has increased its fundraising by more than $22,000 in just three years. It also raised the most money for Knight-Thon 2014, donating $30,645.68 to the cause, and is dedicated to remaining in the lead this year.
"We believe children are the future, and it is such an amazing opportunity for sisters to be actively involved in the community," said Sydney Altfield, president of Alpha Epsilon Phi and student body vice president.
Knight-Thon's main goal is to unite the campus and community through ongoing support for the Greater Orlando Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. The actual event is a 20-hour dance marathon and all money raised is put toward the hospitals' greatest needs. Participants are required to stand, and dance, for the full 20 hours in support of the cause.
"But why do we stand for 20 hours?" the Knight-Thon website states. "Many of the children who are admitted into our local hospitals go through pain and suffering that most of us cannot even comprehend. The act of staying on our feet for 20 hours is meant to give participants a greater appreciation and understanding of the struggles these kids go through every day. Participants are faced with both mental and physical challenges in an effort to support these strong children"
Over the years, UCF's dance marathon has become the largest student-run philanthropy, which includes participation from Greeks, registered student organizations and offices and departments, said Dancer Relations Manager Stefanie Scalish.
"It is always amazing to see how every different organization on campus can come together for one common cause: the kids," Scalish said.
And although AEPhi is off to a quick start, the sorority isn't alone.
Kappa Kappa Gamma, another Panhellenic sorority, is in second place with $2,284.97 raised for the upcoming Knight-Thon — and coming up behind them is Phi Delta Epsilon with $924.38.
Last year, Phi Delta Epsilon, an international medical fraternity, was the RSO that raised the most money for Knight-Thon, with a total of $4,807.52. Phi Delta Epsilon is not ranked in the same category as AEPhi, as it is ranked as an RSO, not a Greek organization.
The organization's members are physicians of the future with a goal of raising more money than the previous year, said Lauren Dickson, president of Phi Delta Epsilon. The organization works year-round to raise money by bucketing on campus and hosting bake sales.
"Knight-Thon is important to us because one day we may be the doctors at a Children's Miracle Network Hospital, and these children may be our patients," said Dickson, a senior majoring in biotechnology, psychology and biomedical sciences.
Dickson said a big focus this year is to have every member of the organization get involved by using social media to raise awareness.
Other organizations, such as Panhellenic sorority Alpha Xi Delta, are also jumping in to help. The chapter raised the second largest amount for Knight-Thon 2014, totaling $25,340.51. Each individual sister gets involved by bucketing and reaching out to friends and family for donations, said Rebecca Hisamoto, public relations vice president. When the sorority surpassed its goal by more than $5,000 last year, it felt empowered as a sisterhood, she said.
"It was beautiful to see that we all could come together to make such a huge difference for others," said Hisamoto, noting that this year's goal is to raise more than $30,000.
Zeta Beta Tau was also a top contributor last year with a donation totaling $18,560.74. The IFC fraternity came in third place.
Brian Zagrocki, president of the fraternity, said the brothers spent the entire year fundraising through its national philanthropy "Get On The Ball," which involves a giant ball that students sign for the cause.
With a community as large as UCF, students should take the opportunity to do something powerful for a great cause, said Jenna Young, family and hospital relations director for Knight-Thon.
"No matter who you are, what you're a part of or what you like to do," said Young, a senior elementary education major, "there is a way for you to contribute and get involved."
To learn more about Knight-Thon 2015 or to get involved, visit osi.ucf.edu/knight-thon.