Dance Marathon breaks record, raises over $1.2 million


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They didn’t sit because cancer doesn’t quit.

More than 1,350 dancers stayed on their feet nonstop in the IMU over this past weekend. After 24 hours, organizers revealed how much money Dance Marathon participants raised for pediatric cancer: $1,220,146.17.

The student organization devoted to raising money for children and families with pediatric cancer once again broke a fundraising record in its 17th year, smashing the $1 million mark for the fourth time.

“This year was a sign that it’s moving up and some people just put in amazing work to achieve what we did this year,” said Sara Shankman, media relations officer and morale captain.

( Daily Iowan video feature )

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9:15 p.m. Feb. 4

Rian Bevan is in her second year of remission after a fight with acute lymphocytic leukemia, and this year was her third Dance Marathon.

The 8-year-old wandered through Hubbard Commons, handing out gifts to dancers and fellow families.

Rian’s mother, Angela Johnson, said her daughter overcame brushes with death on four occasions.

“Most of these kids have actually beat death several times,” Johnson said, while watching the long line of families entering the Main Lounge to be recognized on stage.

1:43 a.m. Feb. 5

Two Iowa Andhi dancers, Cassandra Jackson and Lakshmi Kantamneni, leapt across the stage. The two UI students, along with eight other women, entertained the crowd with “Hollywood meets Bollywood.”

Still catching their breath backstage, their sequined outfits glimmered. The women said the performance rejuvenated them despite spending six hours dancing as participants in the marathon.

“Yeah, we’re a little tired,” Kantamneni said, but she’d do it numerous times throughout the event if she could.

The entertainment turned back to the three disc jockeys who made sure the pulsating music never stopped — DJ NYJ, Inzane, and Commando.

Brad Muford, DJ Inzane, began to DJ at Dance Marathon in 1998. The UI alumnus said it meant a lot for him to return to his alma mater for such a worthy event, but there was no trick to choosing the music.

“We really go with the feeling,” he said. “That’s what real DJs do.”

“In other words, we just wing it,” said Troy Williams, DJ Commando, and laughed.

7:03 a.m.

One young man and a couple dozen women with long hair took the stage. Some whimpered or laughed as local hairdressers cut their tresses.

They donated their hair to Locks of Love, a nonprofit organization using human hair to create hairpieces for children who lost their hair from cancer.

Still clutching her shorn ponytail, UI sophomore Hayley Perrin said she heard about Locks of Love in a Dance Marathon e-mail.

“It’s less exciting than long hair, but it will grow back,” she said. “And it’s for the kids.”

2:05 p.m.

Darick Dunham is finally a graduate.

He and six others walked down the red carpet in the Main Lounge for their graduation ceremony, greeted by cheers and applause.

Graduating signifies being in remission for five years. For Darick and his family, it seemed the time would never come.

The 12-year-old was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia in 2002.

“You don’t know how strong you are until you’re faced with this situation,” said his mother, Shelley Witt-Gentile.

Though Darick said he is glad to graduate, he still supports others with cancer.

“Don’t stop fighting because you’re not at the end yet,” he said.

5:25 p.m.

Power hour — when exhausted dancers give their all for the children — finally began.

The DJ’s kept the music blaring as thousands jumped up and down, peppering the darkness with a wave of neon green glow sticks.

Finally, the hour ended and it was all over.

Organizers announced the record-breaking total, then turned dancers’ attention to the quilts hanging from the balcony in the back of the room which list the names of children who died— those “forever dancing in our hearts.”

After dancers circled up for the last song, organizers left the triumphant participants with one final statement:

“Always remember why we dance: For. The. Kids.”

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