Six-year-old Dadrian Landreth raced around the five-court basketball gym with a plastic head cone in his hands. He was the prison guard, and the people in the crowd were the prisoners.

Dadrian sought random people by tapping them with the cone and pronouncing them to be stuck in jail until they donated.

He forced his prisoners — unsuspecting Ball State Dance Marathon (BSUDM) goers — to wear the cone of shame until they contributed to fundraising for Riley Children’s Hospital.

Dadrian and his brother, Dominick, are both regular Riley patients. They were diagnosed with a mitochondrial disease at a young age.

Children like Dadrian and Dominick met with BSUDM dancers and committee members to celebrate and raise funds for Riley Saturday where BSUDM held its multi-hour fundraising event in the Jo Ann Gora Recreational Center.

The annual philanthropic event benefiting the hospital raised $566,207.20 by the end of the event. It featured roughly 32 families and 40 Riley kids joining Ball State students to dance, play games, make crafts and other activities.

Students gather around the stage Feb. 15, 2020, at the Ball State Dance Marathon (BSUDM) in the Jo Ann Gora Recreation and Wellness Center. At least 23 families and 32 Riley kids have joined students to dance, play games, make crafts, and other activities in anticipation for the final fundraiser estimates of the event. Joshua Smith, DN

Dominick and Dadrian’s mother, Kristen, said she knew right from the start her children might have something different than her daughter, who is now in high school, because nursing was more difficult for the boys.

Mitochondrial disease, Kristen explained, acts like an umbrella for several different muscular-related issues. It also varies from person to person.

“It may impact this kid’s brain, this kid’s heart, this kid’s muscle,” Kristen said. “No one is the same with mito.” 

Riley is located about an hour away from their home. It’s convenient for their family, and the hospital offers pediatric services that are difficult to find in smaller towns like Yorktown, Kristen said.

“I like that Riley offers different specialists,” she said. “They offer a lot of programming for children to make them feel more comfortable.”

Also in the crowd was Isabelle Kraud, fundraising committee member, and her 11-year-old sister, Natalie Graham, who enjoyed festivities throughout the night together.

Natalie has osteogenesis imperfecta, more commonly known as brittle bone disease. Her mother, Shelby, explained how Natalie has broken one of her ribs and her leg. She has also broken both arms and had fractures in her back.

Riley Children’s Hospital has helped them to get the specialized care Natalie needs, Shelby said. In her free time, Natalie enjoys making friendship bracelets with her sister, who helped with raising funds for Dance Marathon this year.

Dance Marathon participants played board games, helped put on a talent show, rated costumes, played tug-of-war, learned a new dance and a variety of other activities while at the marathon.

Jason Towe, Riley relations committee member, reflected on the event following the fundraiser final reveal after 13 long hours of dancing and activities.

“I’m telling you, after four Dance Marathons, you can’t tell me Walt Disney world is the happiest place on Earth,” Towe said. “Some of my best friendships, some of my best memories, some of the most breathtaking, life-changing moments happened right here.”

Four hours before the conclusion of the event, Dadrian’s job was finally over. There were no more prisoners waiting for him this evening — there was, however, pizza and a warm car ride home.

Sumayyah Muhammad contributed to this story.

Contact Bailey Cline with comments at bacline@bsu.edu or on Twitter @BaileyCline.