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Dance Marathon dancers reach all-time high

BY ALLIE WRIGHT | JANUARY 31, 2011 7:10 AM

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Sarah Stolz was hooked the first time she saw the brightly lit stage and crowds of dancers at the University of Iowa’s Dance Marathon.

The first-year graduate student went to the IMU as a UI sophomore to visit her friends, who were participating in the “Big Event” in 2008. She said she enjoyed hearing the families talk about how grateful they were for the volunteers’ work.

“It’s a great organization because all the time and money goes to people who are so deserving,” said Stolz, now in her third year actively participating in Dance Marathon, this time as a morale captain.

The first-year pharmacy student said one of her favorite things about Dance Marathon is “getting more people involved so they can have the same experience as I had.”

A record number of dancers, 2,360, have registered for Dance Marathon this year, said Kyle Walters, the executive director of the event. This will likely result in record turnout, he said.

Last year, around 1,800 dancers signed up, and 1,300 attended, he said.

The dancers must raise at least $400 in order to take part in the fundraiser for the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital.

“We’re hoping for a retention rate that keeps all [of the dancers], but usually, that doesn’t happen,” said Walters, noting that some dancers back out because they were unable to raise adequate funds.

A lot of students sign up for Dance Marathon after learning about it during freshman Orientation, he said, and generally, they stay involved throughout their college careers.

Walters said people are still turning in money, so it is hard to estimate the number of participants who will sign up this week.

“We could literally have someone show up the day of, sign a check, and do the event,” he said.

As more and more participants and dancers sign up, more volunteers are needed to accommodate them, said Walters, and organizers need help serving meals and cleaning up afterwards.

There are usually around 300 behind-the-scenes volunteers every year, said Allie Stockdale, the Dance Marathon operations director.

So far, she said, approximately 150 are signed up, but she expects 150 more by the end of the week.
Stockdale said large groups from such organizations as the UI Foundation and the UI Community Credit Union often lend “fresh arms” to the effort, along with volunteers from local high schools and student volunteers’ family members.

Stolz said she also enjoyed getting to know the families of the kids involved with Dance Marathon. A trip to Adventureland in Altoona this summer and sledding last week were among the activities that helped boost familiarity.

“It’s truly an experience that will change your life,” she said.


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