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BearFest raises over $47,000 in 2nd year (VIDEO)

Sergio Afonso

On Saturday night, the Field House played host to the 2nd annual BearFest, an all-night dance marathon supporting the Children’s Miracle Network.

The Children’s Miracle Network’s website describes the dance marathon as “a nationwide movement involving college and high school students at more than 150 schools across the country, all raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in their community.”

According to BearFest co-chair Geena Lucas, a third-year kinesiology and physical education student who is concentrating in teaching and coaching, the event raised $47,191.39 as of Sunday, Feb. 24.

“Our goal was $35,000, and we passed that goal [on Thursday, Feb. 21],” Lucas said.

“This money will go straight towards Children’s Miracle Network,” she continued. “The money that we raise here will go directly to the [Eastern Maine Medical Center] branch of Children’s Miracle Network, so it will directly be benefiting children from Maine.”

Several children who would benefit from the money were at BearFest towards the beginning of the night.

“[T]he children just came here, and they played on the bounce houses, and they just ran around and had fun. It’s really good to see where the money’s directly going to and who it’s directly affecting,” Lucas said.

Andrew Hawkins, a fourth-year biochemistry student and brother of Sigma Phi Epsilon, described having the children at the event as “a really cool and emotional aspect.”

“Each organization, each fraternity and sorority, was paired up with a child who was receiving funding from the Children’s Miracle Network, and basically all of our donations were sponsoring this child,” Hawkins said. “We went and met the kid, his name was Ashton. Him and his parents were here, and we talked to him for a while, talked to his parents, got to know him and his situation and everything.

“What happened was, they brought everyone on stage and showed which organization was with which child, and they introduced everyone to a big round of applause. It was really cool exactly to see where your donations were going,” he continued.

Lucas credits the increase in donations — up from last year’s approximate total of $31,000 — to greater awareness of the event and more time to prepare.

“I think since a lot of people knew what BearFest was; it was easier to explain to people, and people already knew how to work the website,” Lucas said. “Last year, we were told we were going to do BearFest, we set a date and we only had six weeks to fundraise and do everything. We’ve been working on this year’s since September. We started the website up in November.”

Attendance was also up from last year’s event: About 580 people registered to participate in last year’s BearFest. This year, over 700 people registered. The cost for the event for two hours was $10. Once inside, participants could dance, jump in the bounce house, play laser tag, check out the oxygen bar and get refreshments. A video of “Harlem Shake,” the popular Internet trend, was also shot.

Although much of the event’s support comes from the fraternities and sororities on campus, Lucas hopes for more groups to be involved in the future.

“It’s only our second year, and we are working on branching out and getting other organizations and individuals here,” she said. “It might take a while, but […] we definitely [made] some progress this year.”

Most participants don’t stay for the event’s entire 12-hour duration, but participants like Hawkins were eager to stay for a longer period of time than they initially thought they would.

“I was only coming for two hours, but I’m going into my fourth hour now,” Hawkins said. “I really don’t want to leave. It’s just a really good opportunity.”