On Mar. 6, Fairfield’s sixth-annual Dance Marathon culminated as students, who sported T-shirts reading “Kids Can’t Wait,” lifted large white posters to reveal seven colorful numbers: $31, 584.53.
The numerical total represents a yearlong fundraising endeavor to benefit the patients and families of Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, located forty miles from campus in Valhalla, N.Y.
The Fairfield Dance Marathon, known as Stagathon, was hosted at the Dolan School of Business Event Hall and is part of an effort of over 400 universities involved in raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
Hilary Sparling, the Manager of Central Development Initiatives for the Westchester Medical Center Health Network, explained that “Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital is a 136-bed advanced pediatric center that cares for the Hudson Valley and Fairfield County, Connecticut’s most seriously ill and injured children.”
“Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital is home to the area’s only Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Level I pediatric trauma and burn care programs, and its Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit,” Sparling said. “The mission of MFCH is to set the standard for family-centered care within an environment that promotes healing and wellness to children and their families”
Alaina Tarrallo ‘23, the Executive Director and self-proclaimed “cheerleader” of Stagathon, encapsulated the mission of this year’s marathon in a single slogan: “Grow Together”.
“When we are little we are all asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ Our mission is for every child to be able to grow up, grow strong and grow smarter,” Tarallo articulated.
Tarallo reflected on the incredible stories of the Miracle Children, including a nine-year-old retinoblastoma survivor named Trevor. This fall, Trevor had the opportunity to tour Fairfield Engineering’s facilities and the new Innovation Annex. Tarallo shared, “He wants to be an engineer when he grows up, but I want to be like him when I grow up.”
“These kids are the coolest humans I know,” Tarallo exclaimed. “Many of our Miracle Children have gone through more trials than many of us will go through in our whole lives. They are strong, resilient, optimistic and brave.”
The DSB Event Space was bursting with music, provided by DJ Tristan ‘26. Tarallo describes the joyous function as “a big dance party to celebrate our Miracle Kids and families.”
Sparling reiterated Tarallo’s message, as she conveyed that,“the children truly feel like rockstars at the event and seeing the smiles on their faces is particularly poignant knowing the hardships they’ve experienced.”
Tarallo explained that the impact of the event is two-fold, serving both as “a final fundraising push” and an opportunity for Miracle families to “share their stories of their time at Maria Fareri, which is the most inspiring part of the day.”
A key component of fundraising is raffle ticket sales, with items donated by a collection of local businesses. The sponsors this year included Nichols MD of Fairfield, AR Workshop, Fairfield Dermatology, Playa Bowls, Background Coffee, Crumbl Cookies, The Two Oh Three, The Granola Bar, Garden Catering, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Pure Barre and Kendra Scott.
Rebecca Ziobro, a sophomore and Stagathon’s Finance Chair, emphasized the significance of contributions made by the Fairfield community.
“An important goal that I, along with my committee member, Luke Davidson ’26, had this year was to raise greater awareness for Stagathon’s mission among our neighbors in the Town of Fairfield,” Ziobro commented.
“Over the last month, we went door to door in a few neighborhoods surrounding campus, fundraising and gaining support for Maria Fareri. Our neighbors were very generous towards our mission, and we are so very thankful for their support.”
On an institutional level, students and faculty exuded enthusiasm and demonstrated a commitment to helping local children.
Ziobro acknowledged that, in addition to opening its doors for the festivities, the Dolan School of Business made a substantial donation.
“I had the privilege to meet with Dean Li, and he generously donated on behalf of DSB,” Ziobro stated. “He has been very thoughtful towards our organization over the past few years, and we would once again like to extend our gratitude.”
Sparling expressed her appreciation for the efforts of the Stagathon team, which consists of 10 lead team members and over 200 student volunteers.
“We at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital are so grateful to each and every member of the Stagathon club and all who donated funds or in-kind gifts throughout the year,” Sparling communicated.
Sparling continued, “The event raised over $31,000, almost doubling the funds raised at last year’s Stagathon and setting a new record for Fairfield. Every dollar raised goes towards improving technology and equipment at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, so we can continue to provide world-class care to our patients.”
As the five-hour marathon concluded, Tarallo stepped up to the podium to share a closing announcement. Her final words, joined by a symphony of audience cheers, unveiled a remarkable accomplishment.
“Over these past six years, Fairfield has donated over $100,000 to Maria Fareri,” Tarrallo declared.
The room exploded with applause. The team gathered for a massive group hug, symbolizing the deep bonds established after months of dedication to their common goal.
Tarallo reported that the total has risen to over $32,000, far exceeding the previous record of $20,500.
In the future, Tarallo encourages students to get involved by “raising money, making registration teams to attend the event and coming to our events throughout the year with the Miracle families.”
“Kids can’t wait,” Tarallo underscored. “And neither should we.”