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21-only, panhandling laws impact Dance Marathon canning

BY AUDREY SMITH | JANUARY 31, 2011 7:10 AM

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Members of Dance Marathon joined the usual weekend traffic on the Pedestrian Mall on the evening of Jan. 28, standing outside for hours to fill their plastic boxes with donations.

Over layers of sweatshirts and jackets, their neon green shirts urged passersby to “Help Kids with Cancer.”

But though Dance Marathon participants still rely partly on the public donations — known as canning — some said the fundraising technique has taken a hit.

UI sophomore and morale captain Megan Hoffman said she believes the 21-ordinance and recent panhandling restrictions have made canning more difficult.

Especially because every little bit raised helps the cause, she said.

“We feel like if you bring in $10, that’s a success,” she said.

The Iowa City city councilors approved the panhandling ordinance in June 2010, restricting how close panhandlers can be from ATMs, buildings, vendors, crosswalks, and other panhandlers.

“You can’t market the organization better because you have to be so far back,” Hoffman said.

But UI senior Cody Tebbitt, a second-year canner, said he thinks the new laws have, in fact, aided canners to some extent. The panhandling restrictions have driven away many other organizations from asking for donations downtown.

“It’s something novel now,” he said.

Opinions are mixed about whether canning donations have truly decreased as a result of the new laws, and Dance Marathon officials were unable to provide fundraising amounts from this year or last year.

“Truly I don’t think the numbers have changed any,” said Darcy Bennett, the Dance Marathon business manager.

Courtney Bond, a Dance Marathon adviser in the Office of Student Life, said funds from canning were down somewhat this year from last year, but the organization took fuller advantage of other canning venues, including Kinnick Stadium during football games and Carver-Hawkeye Arena during other sporting events.

Marathon officials also continued to push the importance of canning in Iowa City neighborhoods, she said.

“We’ve just been much more in tune with the opportunities we have,” Bond said.

Bond said Dance Marathon has made sure to fill the sign-up lists for all such events to make up for difficulties with canning downtown.

Changes in canning have not been drastic, Bond said, Dance Marathon has just taken advantage of existing fundraisers in the face of new restrictions.

“Dance Marathon just adjusted accordingly,” she said.

Though the organization has made minor adjustments, Tebbitt said canning remains a fundamental aspect of Dance Marathon.

“It kind of plucks at your heartstrings when you see [canners] putting themselves out there,” he said.


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