Guest: Proposed panhandling ordinance could hurt Dance Marathon
The Iowa City City Council is considering an ordinance tonight that would decrease the number of areas in the Pedestrian Mall in which panhandling could occur.
Panhandlers would be provided a very limited area in which they could ask for donations. Public donation meters would be placed in the downtown area, providing the community with the opportunity to donate to programs for the poor instead.
So how could this affect Dance Marathon?
Dance Marathon is a student philanthropy organization that raises funds and awareness for the pediatric oncology patients and their families at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. This past year, we raised $1,058,658.16. With the money raised, we provide financial, emotional, and social support to the families. Programs implemented from funds raised include: child life assistants, summer camps for oncology patients and their siblings, hospital renovations, and many more.
Dance Marathon recently donated $1 million to the UI Carver College of Medicine to fund renovations to a research laboratory and the establishment of a research fund. This will allow practitioners to conduct research in an updated facility with state-of-the-art equipment.
While we understand the main objective of this new ordinance, it poses many problems for nonprofit organizations such as Dance Marathon. One of our many fundraisers, dubbed “canning,” invites dancers or student participants to ask for donations on the Pedestrian Mall from approximately 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.
On a full night, we allow up to 15 teams of two participants each to raise funds. In years past the organization has raised upwards of $30,000 from donations downtown. This fundraising opportunity allows students of any socioeconomic status to raise funds for pediatric oncology and continue participation in an educationally beneficial activity during late-night weekend hours.
The new ordinance would greatly decrease the number of participants able to raise funds in this manner. This ordinance would restrict us from having 15 teams — 30 students — to approximately five teams — 10 students — per night. This has the potential to greatly reduce the individual fundraising amounts these participants are able to bring in on a given night, limiting their participation and potentially limiting their experience within the organization.
UI Dance Marathon is continually revising the canning program to abide by city ordinances and the university’s cash-handling stipulations. We would be willing to make adjustments to our program in order to please the general public. If this ordinance is passed in its current form, however, it could dramatically affect the downtown canning program’s efficacy.
We ask that the City Council please consider a revision of this panhandling ordinance to exclude or exempt nonprofit organizations that can show documented proof of charity work reflected in the community. Dance Marathon would be happy to receive any needed permits from the city to verify its status as a recognized student philanthropy or nonprofit organization.
Darcy Bennett is the executive business director for Dance Marathon 2011. Elyse Meardon is the sponsorship director for Dance Marathon 2011.
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