Christian Gonzalez is an FIU student and active member of the FIU Honors College. Born and raised in Miami, his passions lie at the intersections of art, nature, and technology. Christian is a junior seeking a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and is currently majoring in Finance.
Roarthon is a 17-hour event that represents the culmination of a year-long fundraising campaign to raise money for children with debilitating illnesses in collaboration with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. FIU Students, friends, family, and faculty were invited to the April 9th Roarthon event to celebrate the children and their families and participate in a variety of activities to help raise money.
However, Roarthon is not just an event. Along with Homecoming, it is one of FIU’s longest running traditions, going all the way back to 1997. The FIU Center for Leadership & Service helps to organize this yearly event at FIU’s Recreation Center, but Roarthon would not be possible without the support and assistance of dozens of dedicated volunteers, and hundreds of students who help fundraise throughout the school year.
Having a child is one of the greatest joys life has to offer, but having a child afflicted with a critical life-threatening illness is one of the most painful things that anyone can possibly endure. Although the United States has made some progress in creating a more equitable and affordable public healthcare system in the past few decades, for many families in this country it just isn’t enough. Furthermore, there are many illnesses we still haven’t found cures for.
Donations to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH) help fund life-saving treatments for children with debilitating and life-threatening illnesses. In addition, the CMNH nonprofit organization helps fund medical research, purchase pediatric medical equipment, provide financial assistance for low-income families who cannot afford medical services, and support kid’s emotional health during prolonged hospital stays. Through these donations, CMNH helps support the health of over 10 million children each year.
The Roarthon event on April 9th took a committee of over 50 students to plan and organize. FIU’s Center for Leadership & Service reserves space in the Recreation Center over the weekend, and then the committee sends Google Forms out to various student organizations to coordinate signing up and volunteering for shifts throughout the 17-hour weekend event. This opportunity came to me through one of the Honors College group chats. I signed up for a shift on the Google Form for the Saturday, April 9th event, and was then added to another group chat to further organize and delegate responsibilities for our respective shifts.
WHERE & WHAT
Before Roarthon even begins, a massive year-long fundraising drive takes place beginning in the Fall. Throughout the school year, FIU clubs and organizations, fraternities and sororities, students and faculty help to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. This drive formally ends in April with the 17-hour weekend Roarthon event held in FIU’s Recreation Center, also known as the FIU gym. Noticeably, this year’s Roarthon had a comic-book “superhero” theme attached.
I was assigned to the first shift of the event. Among dozens of volunteers arriving at the gym at 2:00 PM, we were told that we had three hours to set up and prepare for the event which was supposed to start at 5:00 PM. Volunteers for this event fall into two broad categories. Some volunteers are “sponsored”, which means that people pay donations for them to attend the entire 17-hour event where they are expected to stay, standing for the duration of the event, and sometimes dancing when prompted.
I was a part of a secondary group of volunteers who managed various activity booths spread throughout the floor of the gym’s basketball court. Like carnies at a state fair, there are a number of ways that we encourage attendees to spend money through merchandise, booths, and activities which go toward the fundraiser’s pool of donations. There is a nominal fee that students and others are charged to attend the event, given wristbands at the door, and then there are booths for selling t-shirts, snacks, and drinks. One of my first assignments as a volunteer was to help gather ice and water to mix lemonade and gatorade powder into large coolers which were then used to sell to attendees.
After we finished prepping the drinks station, we helped carry tables and props to set up other booths. There were photo booths where you could get your picture taken for $5, booths where you could answer riddles ($1 a guess) for candy prizes, and several other carnival-like games. Many stations were set up as activities for the children to enjoy for free when they arrived with their families while simultaneously serving as fundraising opportunities which could be charged to students. Some of these activities included a bounce house, a booth for video games, another booth for card games and board games, a booth for ball games and hula hoops and coloring books just to name a few.
Eventually, the children arrived with their families for the opening ceremony at 5:00 PM. FIU’s Interim President Kenneth Jessell gave opening remarks before inviting the families up onto stage. They were warmly welcomed by the crowd and then encouraged to go enjoy the fun and activities while students showed up to spend money and donate to the cause. Once the event began, I was assigned to monitor the video game station for a couple hours before being relieved by volunteers arriving for the next shift.
For 25 years, Roarthon has been helping raise money for children in need. Since it first began in 1997, Roarthon has raised over $1 million dollars for the Children’s Miracle Hospital Network. Despite the recent complications from the COVID-19 Pandemic, students still managed to help raise over $56,000 for the kids and their families during the 2021-2022 fundraising drive before the April 2022 Roarthon event.
Although I was just there for the first shift of the event, it was only a small fraction of the 17-hour long event that extended from Saturday afternoon far into Sunday morning. If I could do it all over again, I would like to help lead the event as an organizer. I can only imagine what the event turns into as more students filter in and out far into the night and early in the subsequent morning.
For Roarthon to happen every year, it takes over 300 students from FIU clubs and organizations to help fundraise money throughout the year. This money could not be raised without the help of hundreds of students and dozens of volunteers that dedicate time and resources every year to make this fundraising drive successful.