Dancing For the Kids

Hailey Flavin and Violet Graney
Hailey Flavin and Violet Graney celebrate RhodyThon's big success.

URI students danced their way into history at a student-run fundraiser that raised more than $153,000 for a local children’s hospital and exceeded organizers’ fundraising goal by more than $50,000.

The 1,400-plus students  who participated in RhodyThon danced for eight hours, beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 24. Hasbro Children’s Hospital, a pediatric hospital in Providence, is the beneficiary of their fundraising efforts. RhodyThon was the largest, first-year dance marathon in the history of such events for the Children’s Miracle Network, a national association of hospitals of which Hasbro is a member. A full 100 percent of the proceeds from the event benefit Hasbro patients.

For Hailey Flavin ’18, RhodyThon’s executive director of student affairs, the event was the culmination of a year’s work.

Flavin, who participated in a Children’s Miracle Network dance marathon at Elon University, introduced the idea to Vice President of Student Affairs Kathy Collins last summer. Collins told her to run with it. Flavin and a team of 14 fellow students managed every detail, from recruiting sponsors and rallying student support to creating a website, developing programming, and marketing the event.

Hailey Flavin and Violet Graney
Hailey Flavin and Violet Graney celebrate RhodyThon’s big success.

Flavin said she was proud to see students coalesce around a cause and credited that in part to the inspiration provided by cancer survivor Violet Graney, whose father, Dan, is dean of students. Violet, 3, was born with a rare form of cancer, infantile fibrosarcoma. She received her treatment at Hasbro.

URI beat the previous Children’s Miracle Network record-holder by more than $40,000, an incredible feat considering URI’s size and student population in relation to other state universities, said Collins. Equally amazing was the collaborative nature of the event, she added.

“It brought students together from across the university,” Collins said. “I loved watching our women’s volleyball team, men’s basketball team, LEAD,  Greek life students, and others working on this together. This event truly was a shared experience for many of our students.”

Flavin said she was overwhelmed by her fellow students’ response to the event and was brought to tears when she and her fellow organizers took to the stage to share the fundraiser’s then-tally of more than $147,000.

“I am overjoyed that people found the same love for this event as I did,” explained Flavin, a senior journalism major with a leadership studies minor who also serves as president of the Panhellenic Council. “People I barely knew were reaching out to me and telling me the event changed their lives and that they wanted to join the leadership team in the future.”

While happy that URI set a record with RhodyThon, Flavin hopes it’s a record soon broken.

“I cannot wait to come back after graduation and see the continuing growth and success of this event,” Flavin said. “I want to come back in 10 years and cry the same tears of joy in awe at how much the event has grown.”

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The two sobbing boys, naked but for a scrim of grime, wrapped their arms and legs around Laurie Rockwell Sharma ’92 and held fast. “One was maybe a year old and the other, maybe 3. And they looked up at me with their big brown eyes and they were saying something, and I didn’t know what they were saying,” Laurie remembers. “And I looked down at them and it just broke my heart.”