NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Vanderbilt University Dance Marathon has certainly grown in popularity over the years. An annual event raising funds and support for the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital, the Dance Marathon has totaled more than $2 million the last 15 years.
So in February of 2018, Andre Mintze thought he would go check things out for himself. He planned to stay for an hour of the marathon party – he wound up at the 13-hour festival for the entire time.
“I liked it so much I felt like maybe other people would feel the same way but they might not know about it or have been to the actual event,” he said. “I took it upon myself to get student-athletes involved in a different part of campus.
“They can meet people and make connections and actually see the people that they’re making an impact on by having them come to a game, a practice – anything possible to show them that they do have a platform and they can use it in a positive way.”
Mintze, a redshirt-junior linebacker from Philadelphia, noticed during the Dance Marathon that not too many – if any – Vandy student-athletes were involved. He kept coming back to that idea during a summer internship at the Vanderbilt Children’s Center for Child Development.
What if there were a way to get his fellow Commodores part of such an impactful movement?
“I created this program called Dancing Dores to get student-athletes involved in such a good cause,” he said. “So I worked on it the entire summer, was able to put it together this first year and we raised over $21,000. This year we’re looking to do bigger and better things.”
The Dancing Dores program allows every Vanderbilt team on campus to raise money in a friendly competition against their peers with all the funds going toward the Dance Marathon cause. Each sport also adopts its own child – football’s Chase and soccer’s Noah, for example, will be present at 3 p.m. Saturday when Mintze and the Commodores host No. 22 Missouri.
For Mintze it’s all about giving children in need added confidence and added hope.
“I know when I was a child how I looked at athletes. I feel like now that I’m in the position that I’m in, just to let them know that I was once a child like you,” Mintze explained. “Any way that I can help you feel welcome, feel the need to grow – I hope that we impacting their lives is something they can take upon themselves to impact the next life when they’re as old as me.”
Mintze and the Commodores have struggled to find the win column through six games this season, the halfway point of 2019. But it’s events like Dancing Dores and the Dance Marathon that help put things in perspective for Mintze, all of his teammates and all the student-athletes on West End.
“This game, you give so much to it, but at the end of the day it’s still a game,” he said. “When you see kids who literally fight for their life on a daily basis, it kind of humbles you. I feel like they’re the superheroes as opposed to me as a college athlete.”