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Spotlight Iowa City: Dance Marathon head keeps busy

BY MARISA WAY | APRIL 30, 2010 7:30 AM

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In the lime-green-accented Dance Marathon office in the IMU, several large posters, crammed with signatures of dancers from 2009, cover the wall above Kyle Walters’ head. At the very top of one of the posters runs Walters’ initials, followed by the words “Neva div up.”

The sentence is neither a secret code nor foreign language. It means “Never give up,” as spoken by a 5-year-old that Walters grew to know through his work with Dance Marathon. Although this child lost his life to cancer, the University of Iowa senior says the motto has driven him through all the hours he has dedicated to the organization.

Those hours have led him to his current position as executive director of the organization in which he is clearly entrenched.

“Dance Marathon is just a part of my life,” he said. “I’ve done it every year since I’ve been at Iowa. It’s something that I’ve grown to love, I’ve met all my friends through Dance Marathon, and I’ve made connections with the families that we support.”

The Rockwell City, Iowa, native was named the next leader in February, and he will keep the title through next year’s Big Event.

It’s an interesting year to have such a position. Dance Marathon, which has been in existence at the UI since 1995 and has raised $8.5 million, garnered $1,058,658.16 this year. Officials recently announced the organization would donate $1 million to create a renovated research laboratory for pediatric cancer research — an area that before had not been a focus for the group.

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Walters is more than capable of continuing the organization’s success, even though his new role requires a huge time commitment and year-round service.

“Kyle is very well-spoken,” Mark Baccei, an adviser for Dance Marathon, said of Walters’ abilities as executive director. “He’s also very, very dedicated to the organization. He has a genuine interest in helping students succeed in their positions or goals.”

But Walters has many other substantial claims on his time at the UI. He will return to classes next year to finish his triple major in biology, psychology, and French. He also works around 20 hours a week as a nursing assistant in the neurosurgery unit at the UI Hospitals and Clinics.

And (in possibly his most serious role) he is a member of the Iowa Spirit Squad.

“I’m one of the people who help protect Herky,” Walters said. “It’s my job to ensure his safety and make sure he’s not mobbed by the crowd … Herky has always been a fascination of mine.”

Such enthusiasm — that which covers a broad range of interests — is something that Baccei said Walters embodies.

“It’s been a great experience working with him,” Baccei said. “Kyle is very caring and outgoing, and he is passionate about the cause. It’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience.”

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