Every spring for the past seven years, hundreds of university students gather to dance and raise money to benefit the only children’s hospital in the state through RebelTHON, and this is the fourth consecutive year that the event has concentrated its efforts on funding the hospital’s expansion.
This year, RebelTHON raised over $250,000, and that money goes directly to the Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi, which has been collecting money since 2016.
The campaign is a $100 million fundraiser to double the square footage devoted to pediatric care at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), according to Andrew Russell, a Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals specialist in the hospital.
“This is a pivotal moment in the history of the hospital with the new expansion,” Russell said. “RebelTHON’s handprint will be all over the new expansion, with them contributing over $750,000 to this project.”
Over the past three years, the hospital has used the money to fund the refurbishing of a waiting room for cancer patients and purchase sleeping sofas for an entire floor of the hospital, Jamie Sproles, president of RebelTHON, said.
“The money (from) this year is specifically going to serve toward the main focus of the new building, the neonatal intensive care unit,” Sproles said.
The $180 million project is set to open this fall and will include two floors of private neonatal intensive care rooms, additional private pediatric intensive care rooms, a dozen surgical suites, a pediatric imaging center and a pediatric outpatient clinic with a parking garage.
With the addition of the new building, the children’s hospital will rebrand as Children’s of Mississippi, but the standing building will continue to be in use and remain named Batson.
“My hope is that the university continues to be a perpetual donor to the hospital because so many Mississippi families will have to walk through those doors,” Sproles said. “I just hope that (patients) can see the University of Mississippi being a big part of why it’s there.”
Apart from the tangible results of the fundraising, many RebelTHON participants believe they benefit from the marathon as much as the patients benefit from it.
“I hope the children know how special they are and how much joy they’re spreading just by smiling, dancing and singing,” Kylie Cockrell, a morale captain for the dance marathon, said.
RebelTHON has fundraised almost $1 million for Batson Children’s Hospital since its founding in 2012. At that time, Batson Children’s Hospital was not receiving any donations from a dance marathon because there was not a participating university in close enough proximity.
When a university organization joins the Children’s Miracle Network, the money raised is automatically donated to the children’s hospital to which the university is closest, so originally, the money raised by RebelTHON was donated to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis. In 2014, the university received permission to switch from fundraising for Le Bonheur to fundraising for Batson Children’s Hospital.
According to Sproles, the university will receive naming rights inside the new expansion of the children’s hospital because of the amount of money that they have donated over the years. The waiting room for cancer patients is already named the RebelTHON lobby.
According to Russell, events like RebelTHON play a significant role in supporting the hospital and its patients.
“RebelTHON volunteers raise a bunch of money every year, but they also do a wonderful job of connecting with our miracle families and making them feel like rock stars,” Russell said. “Some of the miracle kids consider RebelTHON their second Christmas.”