This past saturday, Augustana students gathered inside a string-lit barn for the first ever Augiethon-sponsored formal dance—an event that, for some senior Augiethon members, has been a dream since their freshman year.
“This is almost a four-year dream that we’ve had and it’s this is finally happening and that’s kind of scary, but exciting at the same time,” said Augiethon president senior Eliana Rivera. “We’ve been planning this since May of last year—where we wanted it to happen, how we wanted it to look. It didn’t happen overnight.”
Although planning the formal was a long and sometimes tedious process, the slogan “For The Kids” became the theme of the night, keeping members motivated to make it happen.
“[For The Kids] means that everything we do is for the kids, so it just drives us and really builds that connection and reminds us of why we’re doing this,” Rivera said.
“For the Kids” is the official slogan of the Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Dance Marathon, a program that seeks to raise funds and awareness for CMN Hospitals. Augiethon, an Augustana group on campus, partners with CMN to raise funds and awareness for Sanford Children’s Hospital here in Sioux Falls.
The event not only gave students the experience of attending a formal, but also gave them the opportunity to fundraise for a local hospital that treats an average of 2,218 child cancer patients every day.
“Your fifteen dollars can buy a family a meal when they have to stay overnight or those fifteen dollars can buy a pack of premium diapers that are pretty expensive,” said Augiethon family relations chair and senior Jackie Rusch. “Those fifteen dollars really are making a difference, it’s a bigger deal than just going to a dance.”
Getting students to attend became the primary focus of Augiethon members, and that started with planning a dance that provided an experience different from the other dances Augustana puts on. One of the first questions that came up was where it would be held.
Augiethon members wanted it to have the feel of a traditional formal by finding a venue located off campus. They eventually decided on the Meadow Barn at Country Orchards in Harrisburg, a popular wedding venue. Meadow Barns agreed to sponsor the event, giving Augiethon a discounted rate. Rusch said that without their sponsorship the event would likely not have happened.
Nor would the event have been possible without the help of several campus clubs including ASA, which funded the remaining venue price, SKOL, which provided transportation to and from the barn, and UBG which provided food.
“Having UBG and SKOL be so supportive and excited about it and willing to help was really awesome and we are just really, really thankful,” said Rivera. “We wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help that we got.”
The group effort helped Augiethon pay off all the expenses, so that every cent of the ticket prices could go directly to the kids. This difference was significant as Augustana students doubled the goal set by Augiethon, raising around $4,000 in ticket sales.
At the dance, students also had the opportunity to read stories of some of the CMN families who their donations would be supporting.
“That’s the biggest part of it, just creating that connection between our students and our families,” said Rusch. “The bottom-line reason why we do this is because of those families, they are the foundation of who we are and hearing those stories and what they go through and how we are helping them through this event is really important to communicate.”
With the large student turn out and the enthusiasm shown for the event, Augiethon members are hoping the For The Kids formal will become an annual event. Rusch commented that it’s up to the next group of students who lead Augiethon to keep it going and have the drive to put in the work.