A message from a DMUM alum

To all DMUMers:

Greetings from old person world! You all must be so excited that the Marathon is coming up so soon. Congratulations to all of you for all of your hard work and your dedication this year to everything from family events to fundraising, and you deserve every bit of the experience you will have at the Marathon. As the Marathon draws closer, I wanted to take the opportunity to share something that happened at last year’s Marathon (which happened to be my first and last as a student).

Our team had had a great year, and now it was approximately hour 29.5. The closing ceremonies were taking place, and a Dance Marathon alumus (who had recently started college) came on stage and performed a xylophone solo to “Home” by Phillip Phillips. Two lines of the song cut through the adrenaline of being close to the finish line and seemed to sink in for me:

Just know you’re not alone

‘Cause I’m gonna make this place your home

Well, I thought to myself, the Marathon had certainly come to feel like home in the past 30 hours. But, what happened in about half an hour when we all heard how much money we’d raised and we all went back to our bedrooms to sleep? Pretty soon after that thought started to creep in, I had to remind myself that while the Marathon was temporary, home was something more permanent.

All of us, from the kids to the dancers, have had to find a way to make our home. While I will never fully know the pain that these kids have faced in their lives, I can attest that making your home can be made very difficult when you are labeled as being some derivative from a societal definition of normal, and that somehow this difference means you are less worthy of feeling at home.

But what all of those involved with DMUM have created over the past 17 years has become something special that extends beyond the marathon, therapies, and fundraising events. It is a mindset of continually discovering how you can make yourself feel strong and proud, and finding ways for you to spark those same feelings in others, regardless of background. It is an environment where everyone feels like they have something to contribute and is valued for being a unique person who has feelings, solves problems others can’t, and makes mistakes (and finds a way to learn from them). But most of all, it is a place where, regardless of distances, the common bond between everyone is love.

That is home. And as that realization came to my sleep deprived brain, tears began to stream down my face.

I now speak directly to anyone who will be participating in their last marathon as a student, because believe me, I know that it can be anything from strange to downright terrifying to think about what comes after DMUM in your life. As a 1st year alumna, I wanted to assure you that, while the upcoming distances between you and the Marathon may seem daunting, the Marathon has a way of following you. This past year, I have seen it in my family, work (and those at work that now feel like my family), friends, volunteering at the humane society, and with going from barely being able to run a mile last July to planning on running my first 10K this year. There will continue to be experiences where the Marathon finds all of us, because quite frankly, I don’t think anyone who has experienced the Marathon will ever want to go without it.

So, as we will all continue to hear, welcome home.

Much DMUM love,

Morgan Brisse

Pumpkin Carving

The Sunday before Halloween, DMUM held its first family event of the year. For those of you new to Dance Marathon, Pumpkin Carving is the first opportunity for teams of students to meet the families they’re paired up with. And because the kids are the reason that many students participate in Dance Marathon, there was much excitement leading up to Pumpkin Carving from returners and new dancers alike!

Kids and dancers

Because it was right before Halloween, dancers dressed up as Minions from Despicable Me joined kids dressed up as Minecraft characters, Nemo, and more, at the Cube on campus.


In addition to carving pumpkins…

Carving a pumpkin

…there were many other fun activities that both the kids and dancers enjoyed, like seeing who could eat a donut on a string faster…

Donut on a string

…to painting with syringes.

Syringe painting

Even though this took a long time to clean up!

We hope everyone enjoyed Pumpkin Carving! Please join us at our next event, Sports Therapy Fair, this Sunday, November 10 from 3 to 5 pm at the Sports Coliseum (click here for directions) on campus!

And as always, #FTK (For the Kids)!

DM on the Diag

On Sunday, September 29, we held our DM on the Diag event. Due to the weather, it was technically “DM slightly off the Diag” because we moved into Mason Hall. However, there was a very enthusiastic group of DMers on the Diag directing people toward free food and free t-shirts!

Dancers direct passersby to Mason Hall, where DMUM is handing out food and t-shirts.

Inside, there was a bean bag toss game set up, an Art Therapy station, and of course, a table with baked goods and another table with t-shirts and a sign-up sheet, as well as dozens of dancers.

Current dancers hand out food and t-shirts to prospective dancers.

One of the therapists that works closely with DMUM, Shannon, was there with a huge box of colored pencils and four different mandala designs for people to color. Mandalas are basically circles with elaborate designs that follow a repeating pattern, a lot like what you would see if you looked through a kaleidoscope.

Art Therapy is just one of over two dozen therapies that DMUM sponsors. It focuses on the use of creativity for children to communicate, build self-esteem, and reduce stress.

DM on the Diag

Did you miss DM on the Diag? Have any questions? Want to join us? Please visit us at DMUM.org!

A Message from a DMUM Family


My wife and I, along with our daughter Lydia (who has autism) and son Kyle were sponsored by team 3E for the year as a dance marathon family.

We found out about Dance Marathon through our cousin Joe Altizer. We didn’t know what to expect, except to know that it would be beneficial for our daughter.

We registered for next year already, but we were unable to fill out an evaluation form.

I can only think of 3 words to express myself. WONDERFUL, AMAZING AND FUN.

Our first dance marathon experience was awesome. Lydia and Kyle both enjoyed having fun with the team and all of the activities we did throughout the year. I was impressed at the level of organization, the energy, planning and the committment, not only for the 30 hours of the Marathon, but throughout the entire year.

When you get a diagnosis and are told that your child is differently abled, it is difficult to hear and you think, “what do we do now?”. We were fortunate enough to have the resources to be able to go and find the help we needed and get help for our daughter and acquire therapies. So many families not only do not have the funds, but are overwhelmed and unable to know where to begin.

My wife and I are so thankful that we found another place that makes Lydia feel special. At school she doesn’t always get treated well. She knows that her team, Team 3E are her friends and that she is welcome.

Standing there in the front row at closing ceremonies was great. To see your accomplishments and our accomplishments for the year was truly amazing!! I had Lydia on my shoulders due to her getting a minor sprain earlier in the day. I could hear her cheering for herself, for her team and for the kids.

I have worked for the health system at Mott for 11 years and have never truly felt like a Wolverine until Sunday.

Your work, your dedication and your enthusiasm are truly awe inspiring.

You make our world and more importantly, Lydia’s world, A BETTER PLACE.

Thank you so much for everything!

With DMUM love,

The Roehl family (Lydia, Kyle, Pam and Dave)

Pod Wars at The Marathon

Pod Wars has been a blast this year! Many of you have been going above and beyond in doing your part to make sure your pod is crowned champion at the end of the year.

For those of you who may still be unfamiliar with what the Pod Wars system is all about, a quick refresher before we jump into more details:

Many pods claim to be number one, and there’s really only one way to settle it. All year long, we’ve been offering up points as a way to recognize the awesome things teams and dancers do to enhance their experience with DMUM. Points have been given away for things like family bonding events, raising money at pod fundraisers, and completing fun bonus challenges like deliver Valentine’s to pod reps and completing “dance dares.”

Marathon Bound Week will provide a ton of opportunities to earn points quickly and tighten the race, but the battle for pod supremacy is really just beginning!

At the Marathon, the point values will go way up, making it anyone’s game. If you’re on top and handle your business, the lead you’ve built all year will serve you well. But know that other teams will be closing the gap faster than you can say “line dance.”

There will be several different ways to earn pod points at the Marathon, including winning tickets during our carnival games, participating in Marathon-wide challenges, and performing well in pod game shows which will be happening on stage during meals. As the sun sets on Saturday and the families leave us for the night, Pod Wars will reach a fever pitch as we sprint through the night to crown a winner by morning. You’ll have the opportunity to “wager” points during certain activities and specially designed “Pod Hours” will allow you to rack up points in a hurry while progressing through eight steps of a pod-themed “quest” over the course of the night. Morale Captains will be updating the standings at regular intervals during the Marathon, so you’ll know just how close you winning it all!

Whoever comes out on top Sunday morning will be showered with such honors as brand new Pod Wars trophy, championship gear, a bar night in their pod’s honor, and breakfast with the football team!

We’ll be standing all weekend for a great cause, you might as well steal bragging rights from seven other pods in the process!

Volunteering with Therapies

Dear Fellow Dancers,

Dance Marathon is fantastic in that it has so many opportunities throughout the year to fundraise, bond with our families and have a great time with our teams and the many other friends we make. However, with all of the events we have going on, I think that it sometimes can be easy to forget that the money we raise goes towards something very real. Luckily, Dance Marathon also offers us the opportunity to remind ourselves of the purpose of all our hard work. By attending a hospital volunteer session, we are able to assist with some of the rehabilitation therapies that we fund through Mott Children’s hospital.

I actually became involved in Dance Marathon (as a Dancer Captain this year) by volunteering at therapies. My roommate Joe Altizer (one of the Family Relations chairs this year) started volunteering at therapies last year and convinced me last spring to go to a couple sessions of bowling therapy. Almost immediately, I was struck by the kind and accepting environment fostered by the dancers, the therapists and the families. It also made my day to see how much the kids genuinely love having you there, which definitely lightened my end of the year stress even after the therapies had ended for the day. Without initially knowing much about Dance Marathon other than about the fundraising efforts and the craziness of standing for 30 hours, I knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to find a way to fit this organization into my life, even for just my senior year.

Since then, I’ve witnessed some truly wonderful things with the therapies I’ve attended. I volunteered at Summer Enrichment camp over the summer, and watched as the kids slowly overcame their apprehension of interacting with the live animals that the camp had brought in for the day. Dreams and Wings came at the end of the summer, and even though the kids couldn’t actually fly in the planes due to inclement weather, they still had a blast sitting in the cockpit as well as in a fire truck. In the fall, I got to help out with tree climbing therapy, where kids got to sit in special harnesses and pull themselves 30 feet into the top of a tree, some of them looking down on their wheelchairs. During the year, I’ve also volunteered with Martial Arts Therapy (which was always a great work out), creative coping and art therapy. I’m volunteering with camera club this wednesday for the first time, and can’t wait to see what that one is like.

I think that there are two main things that you can get out of by volunteering. One is the enormous benefits that these kids get out of the therapies. As an older sister to a brother who has Autism, I’ve experienced how difficult it can be for a person labeled as “challenged” by society to find acceptance and engagement. These therapies provide both through an atmosphere that empowers through personal growth and that allows for kids to form bonds with others who understand their daily experiences. I could go on for a while with the personal benefits that this brings for the kids such as confidence, independence and lasting relationships. But I think that can be best summarized by the look of pure ecstasy on Donald’s face at tree climbing as he was lifted out of his wheelchair and into the treetop above.

The other, as best summarized by one of my dancers while volunteering last semester, is that these therapies are as much therapy for yourself as for these kids. Daily university life is so often held to such a performance standard that it is easy for you to get stressed about achieving certain goals. These therapies help remind you that there is so much more to you as a person than your score on a recent exam or the prestigiousness of your summer internship. You are reminded that you actually mean something to the world based on only your kindness and your willingness to get involved.

In summary, volunteer for therapies — it is a couple of hours out of your week that you will be glad that you took.

-Morgan Brisse
Team 5H Co-Dancer Captain

PJ Party 2012

This year’s PJ Party took place on Sunday, December 2, 2012 in Palmer Commons. Dancers and families came together for the second family event of the year and were entertained by a storyteller, Elizabeth James.

After the stories, dancers went and made various crafts, including paper plate penguins, cotton ball snowmen, and paper snowflakes. Ben the Clown made hats and balloon animals for the kids.

We even got a visit from Motty and Beau the Bear, the mascots of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Beaumont Hospitals.

Hope everybody had fun at PJ Party!

DMUM’s 3rd Annual Night to Make a Difference

On Saturday night, November 3, supporters of DMUM came together to raise money and awareness at the 3rd Annual Night to Make a Difference at Weber’s in Ann Arbor. 

Alumni imparted wisdom they learned through their DMUM years onto younger minds and sponsors and community members discussed their roles in helping DMUM grow. A beautiful presentation, including an inspiring speech from the Barret-Huffs family, was given during the night.

After, guests could eat Weber’s amazing food and wander through the hall to bid on different items in the silent auction. The big-ticket item, a trip for two to the African Safari, went to Mr. Walls, our Internal Director’s father. Congratulations! There were also many forms of entertainment, including pianist Patrick Gauthier and the Michigan Pops Jazz Band.

The night was a huge success and everyone had an amazing time. Dance Marathon would like to thank everyone that attended and helped make the night so special.

Interested in joining Dance Marathon or donating, or just want to learn more? Check us out at dmum.org!

Pumpkin Carving!

On Sunday, October 28th, DMUM dancer teams had the opportunity to meet the families that they are paired with for the next six months!  The teams and their families participated in all sorts of activities while decked out in their Halloween costumes.
First, everyone tried out their skills with pumpkin carving at the cube and came up with all sorts of awesome designs!  They then rotated around many activities, which included testing their senses of touch and taste at the eyeball encounter and doughnut eating contest.
Everyone also had a blast trying to guess how many pieces of candy were stuffed into a jar and modeling their costumes on the runway!
Thank you to everyone for coming out.  We can’t wait to see the dancers and their families grow closer and meet again at our upcoming events!
If you are interested in donating to our cause please visit our donate page. If you would like to learn more information about DMUM, please visit our website.

DMUM’s First Annual 5K For The Kids

On Sunday September 30th, almost 150 runners participated in DMUM’s 1st Annual 5K For The Kids in the beautiful Nichols Arboretum. It began with a singing of “The Victors” by members of the UM Men’s Glee Club and an inspiring speech by the Muzzarelli family.

“You guys have done so much for us. If she was not in therapy, we would not be where we are today.”

After chants of “FTK! FTK! FTK!”, the Muzzarellis sent the runners off. They also finished the 5K at a run!

There were arts and crafts at the finish line. Runners had the opportunity to make cards and trick-or-treat bags for children in the hospitals that DMUM supports, Mott and Beaumont.

Check out this video to see more about our 5K!

It’s amazing that so many people came together in the shadow of one of the hospitals we support. You can see Mott Children’s Hospital from almost anywhere in the Arb, as many students call it. Interested in joining Dance Marathon or donating, or just want to learn more? Check us out at dmum.org!