Jagathon: Where did it come from, where is it going?

<p>Payton West (left) and Deveon Martin (right) teach Jagathon participants part of the morale dance.</p>

Payton West (left) and Deveon Martin (right) teach Jagathon participants part of the morale dance.

$2 million is an amount of money that most people could not fathom seeing in their lifetime, let alone just 20 years. But as of 2021, just shy of the 20-year anniversary, that is how much money IUPUI’s Jagathon has raised for Riley Hospital for Children. 

Since its creation in 2002, the dance marathon has become one of the largest events on campus. It all started with one student, Sarah Dargatz. 

In an interview, Dargatz told IUPUI’s Megan Massoles that after receiving a kidney transplant at Riley, Dargatz decided she wanted to do something to give back. Kayla Lemmon, current Director of Fundraising for Jagathon, said that Dargatz heard about a dance marathon at IU and wanted to bring it to IUPUI.

As President of the IUPUI Student Foundation, Dargatz was able to make that happen. 

The first Jagathon event raised $2,000 for Riley. The event raised more money year by year and became larger than Dargatz could have imagined. 

Every year Jagathon awards the Sarah Dargatz Inspiration Award, named after its founder, to a participant, committee member, or executive board member who inspires others. The founder has attended several Jagathons in the time since she’s left IUPUI and has been blown away by how large the event has become. 

“It is so inspiring to see how far Jagathon has come and what a difference it has made on the campus and at Riley Hospital for Children. It is everything I could have dreamed of for it,” Dargatz said in a 2021 interview.

Since its inception, Jagathon has also reached volunteers from outside the university. 

“We partner with a bunch of local high schools and encourage them and help them grow their programs more,” Lemmon said. 

The event currently has nine high schools in Indianapolis and surrounding areas that host dance marathons of their own. Their events are not as long as the 15 hour event at IUPUI, but according to Jagathon’s website, the high school marathons raised $136,791.94 in 2020. 

Even with all of its success, Jagathon, like most things, struggled with setbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since this was the first Jagathon since 2020, a lot of IUPUI students had no experience attending the event. 

“The campus awareness of Jagathon as a whole has gone down,” Lemmon said. “We’re kind of trying to build that awareness back from the ground up.” 

Jagathon 2022 raised $364,069.25. While they did not achieve their goal of $615,000, it was still a slight increase from their 2021 total which was $363,702.25. 

Jagathon’s ability to persevere and overcome a pandemic is a testament to its strength as a program, the families it benefits and its founder, who wanted to give back to the organization that helped her through a difficult time. 

Hanne Brandgard (she/her) is a freshman journalism major. She enjoys watching movies and reading books in her free time.

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