UConn Students Dance Their Way to $1.34 Million for Connecticut Children’s at 23rd Annual HuskyTHON

For Immediate Release: April 7, 2022
Media Contact:

Monica Buchanan, Senior Director, Strategic Communications
Connecticut Children’s
352-219-0860

Hartford, CT– Nearly 30 children and teens, ranging in age from 2 to 16, received a VIP welcome as they joined more than 3,500 University of Connecticut students, who danced from 6 a.m. through midnight raising funds to benefit patient care at Connecticut Children’s. The 23rd annual 18-hour dance marathon, held April 2 on the Founder’s Green on the Storrs campus, topped off an annual year-long fundraising campaign known as HuskyTHON, which raised more than $1.34 million to benefit the only health system in Connecticut dedicated exclusively to the care of children.

“This year, HuskyTHON’s theme has been By Their Side,” said Abbey Conrad, Executive Director of HuskyTHON 2022, a senior marketing major at the University of Connecticut. “I’m proud of the many ways UConn students have lived up to our commitment to be By Their Side of the patients and families at Connecticut Children’s. Together, we have overcome obstacles and have given new hope to the kids at Connecticut Children’s.”

Cold Day, Warm Hearts

Each year, HuskyTHON kicks off its dance marathon by forming a human tunnel to welcome patients and their families. While the event traditionally takes place in the Hugh S. Greer Fieldhouse, this year, due to rescheduling associated with COVID, HuskyTHON was held outside on UConn’s Storrs campus. Despite daytime temperatures in the mid-40s, hearts warmed as each child ushered across Founder’s Green—by a fraternity, sorority or other student group—was met with cheers and thunderous applause.

This year, eight patients attended the event for the first time, including Owen Hanecak, age 5. “My favorite part of HuskyTHON,” says Owen, “is meeting a lot of new friends and playing soccer with them.” While this might seem a trivial treat for some kids, it’s a big deal to Owen, who has already endured three-and-a-half years of cancer treatments involving chemotherapy, blood transfusions and countless hospitalizations. Leukemia brought Owen to Connecticut Children’s, but he is now remission. This thoughtful, courageous boy, who loves trains and can warm up an entire room with his sweet smile, is now enjoying kindergarten and the simply joys of being a kid.

HuskyTHON is not just a special treat for the patients who are celebrated, but it’s a terrific opportunity for their families, too. “Being back at UConn 20-plus years after being a student here is really great,” says Owen’s father, John Hanecak. “It’s an amazing group of students who put on this event to benefit our kids and Connecticut Children’s. Owen has been treated like a rock star!” Owen’s mother, Karyn Bacinskas, agrees: “The students are so wonderful. They have taken Owen under their wing and made him feel really special.”

Another One for the Books

The 2021 HuskyTHON raised $1,052,534.21—a remarkable achievement, considering students continued to fundraise and plan for their annual dance marathon in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the temperature dipped to 33 degrees at midnight, the students revealed the total money raised by their 2022 efforts as they held up placards onstage with numbers representing the fundraising total: $1,340,670.68. This year’s achievement brings UConn’s 23-year total to more than $10 million in support of Connecticut Children’s.

“I am so inspired and truly humbled by the commitment, dedication and passion shown by each and every student at this event. Their efforts truly change lives. Every dollar raised at HuskyTHON goes straight to patient care and toward improving and saving the lives of children. These students help to ensure no child or family is turned away, due to an inability to pay,” said Jim Shmerling, DHA, FACHE, President and CEO, who served on Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Board, of which Connecticut Children’s is a member. The Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals supports university dance marathons across the country.

“Our amazing nurses, doctors and team members are truly grateful to have HuskyTHON By Their Side,” he said. “With the help of UConn students, we will continue to advance and deliver exceptional pediatric care in Connecticut and the region.”

About Connecticut Children’s

Connecticut Children’s is the only health system in Connecticut dedicated to children, providing more than 30 pediatric specialties along with community-based programs. We’re known for exceptional care that kids and parents love, conveniently delivered at locations close to home and by Video Visit. Our experts lead breakthrough research and innovative partnerships, and have won awards for everything from nursing excellence to patient-friendly technology. U.S. News & World Report named us a best children’s hospital in the nation. Connecticut Children’s is a not-for-profit organization with a mission to improve access to health care for all children.

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