Despite COVID-19, Zags are still dancing to raise money for Zagathon.
Gonzaga’s annual Zagathon, originally schedule for March 21, was canceled this year due to COVID-19. Before the official cancellation, many families from Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital started notifying Zagathon that they would not be attending due to health risks. Sacred Heart advised canceling the event, especially because it involved children fighting other illnesses. Members of Zagathon were forced to cancel the event, including all T-shirt orders, vendors and entertainers.
But this isn’t stopping Zags from dancing virtually to raise money for sick and injured kids in the community. Members of Zagathon decided to create a social media challenge called the Dance and Donate Challenge.
“The event was supposed to be right after spring break, so it was kind of right in the middle of all the craziness that was happening with everyone moving,” said Julia Quinlan, the external director for Zagathon. “Representatives from Children’s Miracle Network gave us the guidelines for the social media campaign, and we are the people pushing that out there.”
To participate in the challenge, people make a 20-second video of them dancing by themselves or with others, while respecting social distancing rules. Then, students post to social media using the hashtags #ZagsDanceforKids and #DanceandDonate and tag @SacredHeartChildrensHospital @GUZagathon and @CMNH and at least five other friends. The final step is to donate.
According to Quinlan, the campaign has received support from GU alumni, local community members and bloggers such as Spokane Eats. However, since the Zagathon event generates massive amounts of money for the organization, it has been challenging to meet fundraising goals this year.
“A lot of people are trying to save their money rather than spend it, which is totally understandable. It’s a very strange time,” Quinlan said. "But, [fundraising] definitely is nowhere near the total that we would have gotten, and we know that it will be a lot less money than in previous years just because the in-person event really shows why we do what we do.”
Ryan Meza, the co-morale squad chair, is the top fundraiser for Zagathon this year. According to Meza, this achievement was surprising.
“On March 21, the day Zagathon would have happened, after working so hard throughout the year, it was pretty difficult for me to just sit around and do nothing when it would have been pretty proactive that day, so I posted a little goal of mine for the day on my Instagram story,” Meza said. “I had raised $1,271 throughout the year at that point so I was pushing to reach $1,500 in the eight-hour length Zagathon would have been from 4p.m. to 12a.m.”
At the end of the eight-hour day, Meza surpassed his goal and raised $1,701. All members of Zagathon continue to post weekly to promote the social media challenge and raise money for Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital.
“Instead of being about Gonzaga students and the event, it's more about just encouraging whoever can to donate to Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital in any way they can," Quinlan said. "Usually the goal of the year is to fundraise as much as we can as a program. But, now it’s more about giving them as much support as we can with everything going on right now."
The social media challenge and fundraising is ongoing and will continue throughout April. Donations to Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital can be made on Zagathon’s official website, www.zagathon.com.