Dance Marathon: Dancing on alone


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Though Lura Carstensen is only a sophomore, the UI student has already been involved with Dance Marathon for more than a decade.

Carstensen’s older sister, Kira, was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 1 year old. She battled various health problems throughout her life, including melanoma and a stroke. She died in February 2007.

Carstensen first became involved with Dance Marathon 12 years ago when the then-7-year-old’s child-life specialist told her parents about the program.

“When we first went, my sister Kira loved it,” Carstensen said. “She felt like she could just be a normal kid and she loved the fact that she could hang out with college kids and not be treated any differently.”

Carstensen has remained involved with Dance Marathon since then and this year is acting as one of the organization’s 50 morale captains.

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Eric Banwarth, the morale director and a fifth-year student at the UI, noted that morale captain are in charge of motivating and inspiring their group members before and during the “Big Event.”

“It is almost impossible to do this if you’re not in love with the organization,” he said. “[Lura] definitely has that passion that a moral captain needs. She makes that apparent.”

Carstensen also ran the Chicago Marathon this year as part of the group’s fundraising effort Dance Marathon the Marathon.

Fellow race participant Gracie Eggland praised Carstensen’s commitment to the program.

“She has crazy energy and obvious passion for Dance Marathon, which is a blessing for morale,” Eggland said. “She will always brighten your day.”

Despite her positive energy, parts of the “Big Event” are difficult for Carstensen to experience.

At the end of the 24-hour dancing marathon, presenters read a list of all the Dance Marathon children who died are now “dancing in our hearts.”

“When they read my sister’s name off, it kills me,” Carstensen said. “I hate knowing that she is gone and for some reason hearing her name on that list makes it real. Kira is why I do Dance Marathon, but knowing that she will never again be able to physically dance next to me makes my heart hurt.

She was my best friend, and by hearing her name and seeing her picture at the end brings back all of my grief and pain and a feeling of loneliness.”

Still, Carstensen said she hopes that others are inspired by the children to participate with Dance Marathon, just as she was.

“I will never give up hope for them, and I will never stop dancing for the ones who can no longer hope for a cure,” she said.

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