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Hard work leads to success for Elonthon organizers

Executive committee member Kristen Laramie reflects on this year's accomplishments

Tyler Lesch / Reporter

Nine months of preparation. More than 800 applications to sort. Food and entertainment for more than 800 students.  Members of the Elonthon executive committee, like junior Kristen Laramie, dealt with huge logistical issues to run the event earlier this month.

But in the end, Laramie said all the work was worth it.

Laramie was just one member of the busy committee, but her reflections help to tell the story of a student group that ran an event that raised more than $117,000 for the Duke Children's Hospital and the Children's Miracle Network.  The total is more than twice the amount raised last year.

"We broke six figures for the first time," Laramie said. "That was really exciting for us."

As secretary for the executive committee, Laramie served on the committee for the first time this year, though she volunteered last year on the Elonthon staff. She intends to stay on the committee next year.

Laramie spoke in an interview soon after the night-long Elonthon concluded, sitting on her couch and suppressing yawns.  She said planning for the 24-hour dancing event began in August 2005.  Nine months later, things came together into what the committee members like to call one of the largest student-run philanthropies in the world.

The event staging was critical. After a retreat to work through the intricate timing to coordinate such an event, organizers spent 12 hours setting up the gym, she said.

"Friday before the event we began setting up around noon and worked till 10:30 p.m.," Laramie explained. "Then we arrived Saturday morning to finish setting up."

The event began at noon and lasted until the following noon.

Getting all the registration information ready and sifting through more than 800 applications was a tedious job and stressful, Laramie said, as she slowly flipped through one of her photo albums from freshman year, carefully adding and rearranging photos to make room for new pictures.

"I realize how much I take for granted," Laramie declared. "Especially my health, and I really want to work on not doing that anymore."

This was an idea shared by many people involved with Elonthon, including workers, dancers and even visitors who happened to catch one of the many videos shown throughout the night.

These videos revealed the struggles and stories of the hospitalized children who would become the beneficiaries of the fund-raising.

During poignant scenes, sympathetic students cried and hugged the participating family members, who attended to help tell the stories of their children in the videos.

"It was a life-changing experience for me," Laramie said.

The families of the children were thrilled beyond belief when the final total was revealed, considering the goal for this year was to break $50,000.

"I know for many families, being at Thon was a highlight for them," Laramie said, "which is awesome that we can provide that for the kids!

That's what it is all about."

After it was all finished and everyone left, the executive committee looked around the gym, almost relieved but happy about what it had achieved.

When the dust settled and Laramie finally caught up on her sleep, she said she was ready to start planning for next year.

The planning never stops.

"It is stressful, but it is for the kids and completely worth it," she said. "At the end I felt exhausted, but it was probably one of, if not the most, rewarding experiences of my life."

Besides a few technical issues and some glitches here and there, behind the scenes, everything ran smoothly.

Laramie said the priceless moment came when the fundraising total was announced, and she saw the thrilled expressions of those who had worked with Elonthon for so many years. At the very least, there was $117,000 worth of smiles.

"As a member of the exec team," she said, "you learn how to be a better team player and grow in ways you didn't expect."

Contact Tyler Lesch at pendulum@elon.edu or 278-7247.

Photo submitted

The 2006 Elonthon executive committee from left to right.  (Bottom row): Kaitlin Szulik, Crystal Grandinson, Stacey Vial, Kaitlin Griffith, Laura Bouvin, Hilaire Pickett, Lindsay Dombert and Ashley Krueger.  (Middle row): Amy Jones, Mark Bliley, Emily Darch, Matt Lardie, Kristen Laramie and Nuri Abdu-Rauf.  (Top row): Melissa Komasz, Carrie Whittier and Janis Baughmann.