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BOWLING GREEN - In her entire life, Kaitlyn Richter had never been so tired.
Her knees ached, her eyelids felt like lead weights, and her brain felt as though even the simplest decision was a chore.
She was not alone.
Ms. Richter, a sophomore at Bowling Green State University, joined 222 classmates over the weekend in the 10th annual BGSU Dance Marathon, which raises money for the Children's Miracle Network at Mercy Children's Hospital in Toledo.
The dance began Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Student Recreation Center, where banners from the many Greek organizations, dormitories, and individuals who sponsored dance teams were hanging from the second-floor balcony railing.
"Green Team's dancing for kids until they're blue in the face," read one.
From the beginning to the end, the center's main floor was packed with dancers, supporters, sponsors, and Miracle Network children.
Half the area was set aside for dancing, with live bands and DVDs providing the music.
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At the rear, students tossed Frisbees and played a bean bag horseshoe game.
The key to fighting fatigue, according to Ashley Zergott, a dance marathon steering committee member, is to keep the participants busy. So in addition to the dancing, there were poker and euchre competitions, the beanbag horseshoe tournament, and a Dance Marathon Idol contest - an Alpha Phi named Yoshi nabbed that honor.
Nevertheless, by 3 p.m. yesterday afternoon - three hours before the 32-hour affair ended - many of the participants were dragging.
Among them were Ms. Richter and her friend, senior Kelly Miller, both members of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority.
Ms. Richter said she hit the wall at 4 a.m.
"I started crying," she said. "I never felt like this before."
Ms. Miller said she had a similar experience an hour later.
"I just wanted to be alone. All the people and all the noise was getting to me," she said.
Still, Ms. Richter, who was dreaming of a warm bed as the event's end neared, said she would do it again.
"My soreness will go away," she said. [The children's] won't."
Since the event's conception in 1996, the BGSU Dance Marathon has raised about $1.3 million for the children's hospital, including $162,234 over the weekend.
The dance is the largest of a series of events that BGSU students carry out on behalf of the children's hospital throughout the school year.
"We don't focus on the money," Ms. Zergott said. "The main purpose is to [take care of] the kids. We have a good relationship with them."
Nearby, as if to underscore Ms. Zergott's point, 4-year-old Eric Rhine, Jr., zoomed by pushing a model car, belying the fact that he had six surgeries between October and December. He was born with spina bifida, the most common permanently disabling birth defect that affects the spinal column and motor skills.
His parents, Eric, Sr., and Stephanie Rhine of Bowling Green, said Eric was having a ball.
"It's an awesome time for him," said his father, a 1985 BGSU graduate. "[And] it's awesome the students give so much of themselves. It's a phenomenal thing."
Mrs. Rhine echoed that sentiment. She recalled that after one of Eric's surgeries BGSU students sent 80 get-well cards to the hospital and stopped by to visit.
"They treat our children like they're the most important kids in the world," she said.
Contact George Tanber: at email@example.com or 734-241-3610.