Dance Marathon: Feeling like a million


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Another year, another record.

Tired and sweaty, hundreds of Dance Marathon participants crowded into the IMU Main Lounge this past weekend. After almost 24 hours of dancing came the announcement they’d been waiting for.

Dance Marathon leaders took the stage to reveal the group had raised $1,058,658.16 this year, the biggest annual total achieved in the group’s 16-year history. And leaders say that total is especially impressive this year.

“We’re in the worst economic crisis in 70 years, and you still raised … a lot of money,” business director Ben Friedman told a packed dance floor.

The announcement was the culmination of this year’s Dance Marathon “Big Event,” which led thousands of dancers, volunteers, patients, and family members to the IMU. The event spanned from Feb. 5 to Feb. 6.

( Daily Iowan multimedia feature )

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Feb. 5, 11:30 p.m.

Steph Sacia sat relaxed, her eyes fixed on a book nestled in her lap.

Sacia’s skill for relaxing in less-than-cozy settings is surely a product of long hours — or days — spent in hospital waiting rooms. Her daughter Megan was diagnosed with leukemia in 2005.

But the family weren’t at the hospital this weekend. Instead, they were at the “Big Event.”

“This 24 hours is dedicated to focusing on some of the positives and not having to dwell on some of the bad stuff,” Sacia said.

Feb. 6, 7:30 a.m.

Thirty-five women walked on-stage in the IMU Main Lounge. Ten minutes later, they left the stage, their hair 10 inches shorter, all of it set to be donated to Locks of Love.

“It was absolutely liberating,” said UI junior Shaina Chechang.

Feb. 6, 10 a.m.

While amplifiers pumped loud jams downstairs, the Disney-theme Family Room upstairs buzzed with children’s singing voices.

“This one’s for you, Mom,” Jason Eckrich said before his rendition of Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb.”

Just a year ago, Jason was too sick to attend the “Big Event.” But he’s doing well now; he’s been out of the hospital since Dec. 10 and receives mostly out-patient care.

Feb. 6, 2 p.m.

Throughout the event, morale captains performed a choreographed dance, likely too elaborate for most kids to join in on.

But Kenzie Colbert, a member of the family-relations committee, formulated a more kid-friendly dance.

Around 20 Dance Marathon kids took to the stage, holding hands while wearing oversized white T-shirts. On cue, they spun around to reveal a message on the backs of their shirts, one letter per shirt: “Thank you, Dancers.”

The kids then proceeded to dance to a compilation of songs including “Hakuna Matata” and “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”

Feb. 6, 3 p.m.

Best friends Madalynn Rudolph, 7, and Eve Warner, 8, were on stage throughout the event, pulling other dancers on stage with them.

Madalynn was at the event in memory of her cousin Trevor White, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2003.

Holly Rudolph, Madalynn’s mother, said the event has given Madalynn a better perspective on cancer’s impact.

“If she’s having a bad day or doesn’t feel good, she’ll say, ‘At least this isn’t as bad as Trevor’s good day,’ ” she said.

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