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Morale Captains in Training will shadow older captains

BY JORDYN REILAND | JANUARY 31, 2012 7:20 AM

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Joe Eckrich wants to one day attend the University of Iowa and participate in the Dance Marathon.

The North Liberty student participated in the Dance Marathon's Morale Captain in Training program last year, which allows teenagers to shadow morale captains while helping energize dancers during the Big Event.

"I think I like to help out for the kids — that's what it's all about," Eckrich said. "Also, raising money and helping the kids really makes me feel accomplished. It's really just a great opportunity to do that."

Eckrich was motivated to participate when little brother Jason Eckrich died after being diagnosed with leukemia.

"It was really fun, really awesome dancing for the kids, and it was really tiring," Joe Eckrich said. "I guess you really don't know what you are getting yourself into until you do it."

Ashley Wallett, the former Dance Marathon morale captain assistant chairwoman, said the Morale Captain in Training program was introduced as a way to incorporate older kids who participate in Dance Marathon.

"The Dance Marathon teenagers could possibly be captains one day, come to Iowa, and get involved in Dance Marathon," she said. "I think it's great for any kid to be involved in something like that.

The Morale Captain in Training program is open to anyone 13 to 18 years old. Interested participants can sign up before or during the event.

Dance Marathon organizers first introduced the Morale Captain in Training program during last year's Big Event, but family representative head Caitie Malooly said it's more organized this time around.

"Last year, we talked about it but kind of got distracted with other things and kind of pulled it all together the week before," Malooly said. "[This year], we wanted to really improve the program and make it better."

Last year, approximately 40 people signed up for the training, but only roughly 10 were left at the final "meet-up" on the day of the dance. Fifty interested in the training signed up for this year's Big Event, and Dance Marathon officials said they expect more sign-ups at the event itself.

During the Dance Marathon event, the trainees will shadow morale captains by attending meetings, learning the morale dance, and getting special nicknames from the older captains.

"The morale captains have become very close, and we want to initiate that relationship as well as give them someone to hang out with during the event," Malooly said.

The trainees will "police" dancers they find sitting, sending them to a "jail cell," where they are forced to stand or have a friend pay $1 for their release.

Malooly said the new additions to the program are to keep the teens feeling involved.

"We wanted to get them more involved, because the little kids get a lot of attention, and some of these kids are just a few years younger than us," she said. "They don't need to be babied, they just want to hang out and do cool stuff."

Dance Marathon officials said the program keeps every age group involved.

"It gives them a glimpse of what the other side of Dance Marathon is like," said Lindsay Supple of the family-relations committee. "I think it'll grow each year as Dance Marathon grows."


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