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If the Valparaiso University students participating in a dance benefit Saturday needed any encouragement, they had little Sylvie Goss.

Born with scoliosis and spina bifida, Goss has been undergoing regular treatments at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. With two rods in her back, she returns to Riley every six months.

“Dance, dance, dance,” Goss, a fifth-grader at Valparaiso’s Thomas Jefferson Elementary, told college students on the gym floor at VU’s Athletics & Recreation Center. They assembled for a dance marathon to benefit Children’s Miracle Network, a nonprofit organization that raises funds and awareness for more than 170 pediatric hospitals across North America.

Wearing T-shirts that read Carpe DM (for the dance marathon), students also embraced the acronym FTK — for the kids.

“I’m very blessed to have good doctors and a good family for support,” Goss said, adding that turnout for the dance benefit was “very thoughtful and helpful.”

Carol Goss, Sylvie’s mother, said the “caring and compassionate” medical staff at Riley “makes a big difference for these kids to face all they have to face.”

Riley “doesn’t feel like a hopeless place,” the mother added. “People are on the pathway to getting better.”

Since the dance marathons began in 1991 at Indiana University, they have raised more than $200 million.

One of nine campuses nationwide to raise $1 million annually, VU drew 639 students to this year’s dance marathon, an increase from the 586 participants in 2017. “I’m encouraged by the turnout,” said VU sophomore Miranda Dunn, director of public relations for the dance marathon. “We’ve increased our numbers, and that’s all you can ask.”

As Dunn, of Plymouth, explained, VU also holds a FT5K run-walk to benefit children’s hospitals. The campus also collaborates with local eateries on “Miracle Mondays,” during which a percentage of sales supports the dance marathon.

Carol Goss, who is director of VU’s Language Resource Center, praised students for “doing it with such as sense of giving. They’re learning what it means to serve and learning about kids.”

The marathon ran from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., during which “morale team” members taught participants sections of a group dance.

Kassidy Grumbles, a VU junior biochemistry major from Griffith and a morale team member, said the benefit mattered because “it helps raise money for kids who otherwise might not get treatment. This is super important because it helps move other things along.”

Nathan Warren, a junior computer science major from Bay City, Michigan, called the marathon a “great opportunity to interact with others and make a difference. Seeing kids go through this can break your heart, and I want to support them to have a better future.”

Andrea Stilts, a psychology major from Homewood, Illinois, has had three relatives with cancer.

“I’ve seen what it can do to families,” Stilts said, “and I want to support the people who might be having a rough time.”

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