OwlThon at FAU Adapts for COVID-19 Safety


Florida Atlantic University (FAU) held its annual Miracle Network Dance Marathon known as OwlThon in March 2021.

As a student-led organization, OwlThon looks to raise funds and awareness for the sick and injured kids at the local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The fundraising culminates each year with a 13.1-hour Dance Marathon event.

During the first event in 2014, OwlThon raised $6,000. This year, it raised over $100,000. In fact, since its inception OwlThon has raised over $1.2 million for the local hospital.

Hosting a Fundraiser During a Pandemic

But, hosting the annual Dance Marathon in 2021 was made interesting by a pandemic.

The organizers of OwlThon shared: “Fundraising for a children’s hospital in the midst of a global pandemic wasn’t easy. Restrictions in place made it difficult for our participants to come together and the families we support were unable to join us. Despite the difficulties, we learned even in the most difficult of times, people are willing to give. Our organization adapted, became more creative and realized numbers cannot define us. Capacity restrictions could not stop the fight to end pediatric illness and injury.”

Warren Shaw, the interim director of Campus Recreation at FAU, said hosting an event like this one started with a COVID-specific reservation plan. It adheres to the university’s guidance while taking into account the internal capacities and capabilities.

“As event organizers inquire about the utilization of our space, we provide them with the COVID reservation form to determine the base-level feasibility of their event,” said Shaw. “After extensive review from both our department and the COVID safety protocols committee, the OwlThon organizers were able to adjust their plans to meet the established guidelines.”

Keeping Events COVID-Safe

Shaw gave several pieces of advice for other professionals looking to host similar events:

  • Stock up on sanitizer.
  • Make sure the university is aware of potential events.
  • Establish an infrastructure that works for your department.
  • Be realistic about what you can do versus overreaching.
  • Provide clear COVID-19 guidelines and protocols.
  • Be open to creativity in how you deliver programs and utilize space.

All in all, Shaw said the credit for the event goes to the OwlThon organizers. They were able to reimagine their vision. “Our department is grateful for the opportunity to be the host for OwlThon annually and in turn learned how to reconfigure our spaces to meet the need of the client,” said Shaw. “Also, it’s important to note people will support worthy causes like OwlThon especially if a safe environment is provided to do so.”

Image courtesy of OwlThon

Heather Hartmann is the editor for Campus Rec Magazine. She can be reached at heather@peakemedia.com.

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