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More than 40 children and teens, ranging in age from 4 to 16, received a rock-star welcome as they joined more than 3,200 UConn students, who danced the night away toward a new fundraising goal to benefit patient care at Connecticut Children’s. The 21st annual 18-hour dance marathon, held February 22-23 on the Storrs campus, topped off an annual year-long fundraising campaign known as HuskyTHON, which raised more than $1.52 million to benefit the only health system in Connecticut dedicated exclusively to the care of children.

“This year, HuskyTHON’s mission has been to “Brighten Tomorrow,” said Emma Kryzanski, Executive Director of HuskyTHON 2020, a senior physiology and neurobiology major at the University of Connecticut and a fourth-year HuskyTHON participant. “I’m proud to say we have taken a giant step toward creating a brighter tomorrow for many children throughout the region through our fundraising efforts.”

“HuskyTHON recognizes that every new day holds the potential to be better and brighter than the last, and that Connecticut Children’s is essential in facilitating that future for each patient and family it treats,” said Kryzanski of Burlington, who has been a patient of Connecticut Children’s, herself, for the past 21 years. “With the way Connecticut Children’s ‘Brightened my Tomorrow’ in mind, I stand with this mission and dedicated myself to doing everything I could to ensure we accomplished it.”

A Night to Remember

Each year, HuskyTHON kicks off its dance marathon by forming a human tunnel to welcome patients and their families to the Hugh S. Greer Field House on the UConn Campus. Each child arrives amid cheers and thunderous applause and is celebrated throughout the weekend by a fraternity, sorority or other student group. This year, 17 patient families attended the event for the first time.

Genevieve Neiman, 13, got her first taste of HuskyTHON in March 2019 because she wasn’t well enough to attend the year before. Genevieve, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at the age of 10—and has been in remission for just over three years—was looking forward to this year’s HuskyTHON with great anticipation.

“Last year, Genevieve enjoyed the hype of the music and the students’ enthusiasm for the cause,” said Meredith Neiman, Genevieve’s mother. “This year, she really looked forward to staying for the entire event. Last year, she was really disappointed that we dragged her home around midnight; she wanted to say longer to play more games, dance more morale dances and hang with the college kids—although we did return on Sunday for breakfast and the unveiling of the dollar amount raised.”

Neiman said that she and her husband, Douglas, of Somers, attended both last year’s and this year’s event with Genevieve, who is now talking about attending UConn in a few years and supporting HuskyTHON as a student. “I am at a loss of words to describe this student-driven event for Connecticut Children’s,” Neiman said. “It gives me hope on so many levels.”

Another One for the Books

Exceeding all previous fundraising tallies, the 2020 HuskyTHON raised $1,520,234.98, surpassing last year’s total of $1,328,402.19 to support patient care at Connecticut Children’s.

The total money raised was revealed on Sunday at noon, when students onstage held up the placards with numbers representing the fundraising total, with the field house erupting in cheers. This year’s achievement brings UConn’s 21-year total to $7,718,834.04!

“Every dollar raised at HuskyTHON supports our patients and families,” said Jim Shmerling, DHA, FACHE, President and CEO, who serves on the Board of Governors of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, of which Connecticut Children’s is a member. The Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals supports university dance marathons across the country.

“This includes everyone from our tiniest babies fighting for their lives in the NICU to children and teens battling cancer; to kids who are injured or suffering a behavioral health crisis and are brought to Connecticut Children’s Emergency Department, where they are evaluated, kept safe and provided with the follow-up care they need,” he said. “With the students’ help, we will continue to advance and deliver pediatric care every day, because every child deserves a chance for a bright future.”

About Connecticut Children’s

Connecticut Children’s is the only health system in Connecticut dedicated exclusively to the care of children and ranked one of the best children’s hospitals in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and a Magnet® designated hospital. Connecticut Children’s provides more than 30 pediatric specialties along with community-based programs to uniquely care for the physical, social, and emotional needs of children. Our team of pediatric experts and care coordinators bring access to breakthrough research, advanced treatments for both rare and common diseases, and innovative health and safety programs to every child. Connecticut Children’s is a not-for-profit organization with a mission to improve access to healthcare for all children through convenient locations, care alliances and partnerships.