Dance Marathon: Falling in love with marathon


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Eric Banwarth calls his involvement in Dance Marathon “almost selfish.”

And after three years of being involved in the organization, he’s still amazed when families thank him for his efforts.

“It doesn’t seem like something you should be thanked for,” he said.

Now the morale director for the organization, Banwarth didn’t join the group until his junior year.
A different passion led the fifth-year senior to the UI — he played for the Hawkeye baseball team for a year.

After leaving the team, Banwarth discovered Dance Marathon, something he loved even more.
“Once you do it, you fall in love,” he said. “I can’t imagine my life without it.”

Banwarth’s then-roommate encouraged him to join the cause in 2007. At the same time, his best friend’s brother from his hometown of Dubuque was diagnosed with leukemia, further inspiring Banwarth to become a dancer.

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Once he enlisted with the organization, there was no stopping him.

“He’s a very, very motivated person,” said friend and fellow dancer Jordan Easton.

Indeed, as Banwarth’s first “Big Event” — as Dance Marathon folks refer to the 24-hour dancing extravaganza — approached, he didn’t let a shortfall in his fundraising goal stop him. He simply pulled out his checkbook and donated the rest of the money himself.

The next year, Banwarth became a morale captain, something Easton said he was perfectly suited for.

“He’s so easygoing and approachable,” said Easton, the Dance Marathon special-events chairman. “He’s always willing to help, and he can find the good in any type of person.”

Banwarth’s job this year is to motivate 49 morale captains and keep them focused on the ultimate goal — attracting and retaining as many volunteers as possible by Feb. 5, the day the 24-hour final event kicks off at the IMU.

“I just try to pass on that inspiration and get that fire going,” he said.

UI senior Betsy Webb, a morale captain, said he does the job well. From inspiring the captains to helping with day-to-day tasks, such as organizing, she said, Banwarth has been there every step of the way.

He said students such as Webb are one of the best parts of the experience.

“You’re with people who have fallen in love with the same thing you have,” he said.

Despite his passion for the group, he admitted some aspects of the experience are tough.
He recalled his first year at the event when his group went into the “Dancing in Our Hearts” room, dedicated to those children who have lost their fight with cancer.

“I was afraid,” he recalled. “It’s tough to hear about.”

But the challenges and triumphs Banwarth has experienced over the past three years have changed him, he said. And he’s not sure what he’ll do without it after he graduates in May with a degree in management.

“I’ve been told that you find ways to take Dance Marathon with you,” he said.

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