Dance Marathon: Memory of brother’s cancer spurs dancer


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On Sept. 11, 2001, while most of the country was witnessing the World Trade Center collapse, Tucker Kline found out his youngest brother, Ethan Kline, didn’t have cancer anymore.

“So that was kind of weird,” Tucker Kline said, recalling his brother and his mother watched Mulan as the TVs in every other hospital room turned to footage of the attack. “A little bit of celebration in the midst of all that tragedy.”

And though his brother’s cancer has remained in remission, the Iowa City native has remained active in Dance Marathon activities, becoming one of the organization’s top earners during his first time as a dancer this year.

Kline has earned more than $2,300 so far, but he’s not done yet. In the past week alone, he’s succeeded in doubling his fundraising money.

“Most people struggle to get the required $400,” said Jamie Lick, his group’s morale captain. “Just this past week he earned $1,300 more.”

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Kline said knowing people in the area has helped with raising so much money and said he stuck with updating his Dance Marathon page and sending out e-mails.

“It helps that I’ve been grounded in the Iowa City community,” Kline said with a modest shrug. “I mean, I’ve been here my whole life.”

Often on his way to the gym, dressed in sweat pants and Dance Marathon T-shirts, the 20-year-old University of Iowa freshman has a goofy smile, messy hair, and an infectious laugh, which follows most of his statements.

But when talking about his little brother, Ethan, his voice becomes steady, almost rehearsed.

Ethan, now a 16-year-old City High sophomore, was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a form of brain cancer, in 2000 when he was 5.

Their family was vacationing in Jackson Hole, Wyo., when Ethan began complaining of severe headaches and problems with his right eye. They took him to the hospital, and after he flown to a Denver hospital, doctors found a tumor in his brain.

In 2002, Ethan began attending Camp Heart Connection, a camp largely funded by Dance Marathon proceeds for people afflicted with cancer. Tucker Kline and his two other brothers — Jake, 22, and Abe, 18 — began a session for siblings the same year.

“Something about Dance Marathon and Camp Heart Connection go hand in hand,” Tucker Kline said. “You see the same people at events. Some of them are my best friends in the world.”

And in the summer of 2009, Tucker Kline decided to become a counselor at the camp. And with a stroke of fate, he met Lick, who eventually cajoled him to join his group.

In his house on East Market Street, where Tucker Kline lives with brother Jake, Jake’s fiancé, and a friend, Jake Kline turned from his computer to say he supports his brother because of everything they’ve experienced as a family.

“I help him with wording and stuff like that for e-mails,” he said. “He doesn’t send them to me, though. He knows I have no money.”

Now, Tucker is back for another Dance Marathon, participating this year not as a sibling but as a dancer.

“I’ll be there the entire time dancing,” he said. “Dancing my ass off.”

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