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UNI Dance Marathon shatters previous fundraising record in 2nd year

Staff Writer

Published: Monday, March 4, 2013

Updated: Monday, March 4, 2013 15:03


ERIN KEISER/Northern Iowan

University of Northern Iowa students dance in Maucker Union at the second UNI Dance Marathon. The event raises money to support the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital.

Just before noon on March 2 at the University of Northern Iowa, students flooded Lang Hall hallways in lines that snaked from the north side of the building, through the tunnel to Maucker Union, all the way to the ballroom. Orange-clad students participating in the second annual UNI Dance Marathon filed into the room as they awaited the beginning of an event that is one part dance party, one part fundraiser, but above all, a chance for UNI students to reach out to families with children who are patients of the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital.

As described in the opening ceremony’s welcome video, Dance Marathon is here to “celebrate them, support them and let them know that there are people here at UNI that care about them."

UNI was one college out of 75 to have its first event last spring, and it raised a total of $56,473.01, breaking the 15-year-old Dance Marathon record for most funds raised at a first event. This year, the sights were set even higher. Participation grew from last year. More than 900 dancers, volunteers and coordinators showed up with a goal to raise $66,000 while vowing not to sit or drink caffeine for 12 straight hours because disease doesn’t rest and neither would they.

Some of the children who inspired the event were also in attendance. The opening ceremony featured a parade of families who waved to the cheering crowd standing under brightly colored banners with the children’s names on them.

Ella Johnson, one of the children in attendance at last year’s Dance Marathon. returned to the event in improving health and was still passionate about helping other children, but this year she had a future dream to share with the UNI Dance Marathon dancers. Ella, who turns eight in two weeks, would like to be a doctor or nurse when she grows up so she can do even more to help sick children.

Brenna Lantz, junior fashion major, described her interaction with the child her group was supporting, Meara O’Brien.

“It was great just seeing her in such a good mood today and having a blast with her parents. Her parents were just the sweetest things and really inspirational because this girl has gone through so many hard times and we know that her parents still love her and support her no matter what. That just shows us that we have amazing people in this world who really do love others, and it makes you want to spread that love to other people.”

O’Brien was born with a brachio plexus nerve injury and bronchomalacia. She sported UNI sweatpants and was excited to dance. O’Brien told her Dance Marathon group that she was most excited for the Interlude Dance and that the robot was her favorite part. Her parents, Sara and Eric O’Brien, couldn’t say enough positive things about the program.

“We represent only a small portion of the families that are helped by Dance Marathon; this program makes such a difference in so many lives,” said Eric O’Brien.

His wife added, “It really does make a difference, when you are young and going through a medical procedure you don’t understand, anything that makes the hospital seem more like home is a blessing.”  

Sara O’Brien went on to list many of the services that Dance Marathon helps fund that have been of particular importance to Meara, such as a playground, computers with games in the waiting room and specialists who stay and entertain the children during medical procedures or other times that their parents can’t be present.

Freshman deciding major Sarah Stephany said, “I’ve been waiting for a long time to be a part of Dance Marathon. I first heard about it in high school, but I read that it was only for college students so I had to wait a few years to come, but I’m so excited to be here.  The energy is great and it is so inspiring to hear all of the kids’ stories. I have a little brother and this makes me thankful that everybody in my family is healthy. I’m just really excited to be here.”

Many other students were just as excited to be there among a wide range of activities, from laser tag, video gaming rooms, a carnival room with blow-up obstacle courses, acts such as the Brazilian 2wins and food from Pancheros and Panda Express. Student body president Jordan Bancroft-Smithe had his hair cut onstage to be donated to Locks of Love.

However, many students said over and over again that none of these were their favorite part of the evening.

When asked about her favorite part of the evening, junior TESOL major Allyson Berry said, “Seeing all the families and hearing all the stories. I get all teared up!”

Susan Graves, junior biology major, said, “There are just so many kids that don’t have a choice, and they have to be tired but they still are happy. I think that is what Dance Marathon is all about, understanding what the kids are going through, how they might be tired, but they are still happy.”

After a long day, Saturday’s Dance Marathon ended the same way as last year’s, with the “power hour” where everyone crowded into Ballroom B for a final, hour-long dance party.

Sophomore early childhood education major Hilary Ronnfeldt commented on the power hour.

 “The rave in there is just awesome because you can feel the hype and the environment with everyone being so excited. Power hour is that last hour to get all of that energy out for standing up for the kids. It is just so amazing.” Ronnfeldt also added that while she enjoyed it, the power hour wasn’t her favorite part of the evening.

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