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Dance Marathon: West High athlete volunteers as 24-hour dancer

BY KENDALL McCABE | FEBRUARY 02, 2011 7:10 AM

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Lauren Larson is an oddity among University of Iowa Dance Marathon participants. She’s not even in college.

Though high-schoolers have participated as spirit dancers or volunteers for other parts of the organization in the past, she is among only roughly 30 Dance Marathon participants from West High who plan to be 24-hour dancers this year.

Sitting in green breakaway pants and a matching jacket as she awaited the start of her basketball game, the 15-year-old said she recruited 10 of her friends to join her. While sitting in the West High hallway, a small group of sophomore girls even interrupted to ask her for last-minute fundraising tips.

“It’d be so hard to find out one day that your kid has cancer and to have to come up with the money,” Lauren said after telling the girls how to turn in their money.

And Dance Marathon isn’t the only way she gives back. She is a member of West High’s 1440 Volunteering Club, and, through her school’s Silver Cord program, she hopes to accumulate 300 or more volunteering hours before she graduates.

Outside of volunteering, Lauren said, her other true passion is softball, in which she’s a center fielder. Her family is also heavily invested in the sport; her father has coached her since she was 5, and her mother played softball in college. The sophomore has also played basketball since second grade and is the point guard for the West High team.

Along with their enthusiasm for athletics, passion for Dance Marathon runs in her family.

Last year, Lauren visited her cousins Ana and Lea Stover for three hours as they powered through the organization’s “Big Event.”

She was moved by the families’ stories.

“I bawled,” said Lauren, who wore a bright green streak in her hair. “It makes you realize how much of a struggle it is.”

The experience inspired Larson to join as a sophomore. Most of the 30 high-school dancers are older, she said.

And her dedication to the organization has inspired others.

“She definitely, definitely knows that she wants to make this the most positive experience for her first Dance Marathon,” said Sammantha Marks, a UI freshman who was a 24-hour dancer when she was a senior at West High. “I idolize her.”

This year, Marks is the assistant morale captain for Larson’s group.

“It’s great that she got her friends involved,” Marks said.

UI alumna Lea Stover, who spent three years volunteering for Dance Marathon, said her cousin’s contributions to the organization are unique because Larson has years of involvement ahead of her.

“It’s awesome that she’s so enthusiastic just as a sophomore in high school,” Stover said.

Larson, who said she wants to become a kindergarten teacher, said she hopes to attend the UI, and she would like the opportunity to continue with Dance Marathon.

To her, the fundraising and full day of dancing is worth it.

“You can’t complain,” Larson said after listening to families’ stories at the Big Event last year. “That 24 hours is nothing compared to what they go through.”


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