Children danced, cupcakes were decorated, games were played, and the ever-present “FTK” chant was shouted amongst the small crowd in the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics. While University of Iowa students were standing and dancing for 24 hours “for the kids,” the exact children they are raising money for had a celebration of their own.
Dance Marathon has been celebrated at the University of Iowa for the past 20 years and for the third year, the UIHC has held its own “mini” Dance Marathon for children who are too sick to attend the gathering, which is held in the Iowa Memorial Union.
“I think it’s really important to celebrate all the families that are involved in Dance Marathon, including the ones that are still in treatment,” UI senior and Dance Marathon hospital chair Michelle O’Brien said. “I think it’s really easy to get caught up in the Big Event, but it’s important to remember to celebrate the families still in treatment.”
Dance Marathon was held on Feb. 7 and 8 for University of Iowa students. The students danced for 24 hours, and yet-again broke the fundraising record by raising $1.8 million. Last year, the dancers raised $1.5 million. The total amount Dance Marathon has raised over 20 years is $14.5 million.
Alisha Olsen, a sixteen-year-old receiving treatment for osteosarcoma, received her diagnosis in January and is experiencing the entire Dance Marathon organization for the first time.
“I think it’s pretty cool what everyone does, with raising money for kids with cancer,” she said, adding she was excited for the other events that are held throughout the year. “From what I’ve heard they seem pretty fun, I’m excited for it.”
Mother of nine-year-old Christopher Turnis said the Dance Marathon events and mini Dance Marathon help her son get to met other people who can help make receiving treatment for his kidney transplant much easier.
“Being in the same room every day gets pretty boring, and I’m sure he’s gets sick of looking at me all the time,” Kristina Turnis said. “[The mini Dance Marathon] gives him something fun to do, and it includes the kids who are stuck in here. It makes him feel he’s a part of something.”
Dance Marathon provides volunteers to visit children in the hospital, and senior Sara Stewart said the volunteering experience helped her just as much as she helped the kids.
“I really like working with the whole family — the patient, their siblings, and the parents,” Stewart said. “It’s great to know you can help make this terrible experience a little easier, but they’ve helped me just as much. I can’t imagine my college experience without being involved [in Dance Marathon].”
UI President Sally Mason has been involved with Dance Marathon for seven years, and believes it still has room to grow.
“I’ve seen the passion and intensity the young people show for this organization, and it grows every year,” Mason said. “It still is growing. I don’t think we’ll be happy until every University of Iowa student participates.”