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Give it up for those getting down at Dance Marathon

BY GUEST OPINION | JANUARY 31, 2012 7:20 AM

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Once a year, the floor of the IMU Main Ballroom on the University of Iowa campus shakes with the power of thousands of dancing feet. They stomp, shuffle, hop, and jump — not just for joy, but for life.

That's because all those tapping toes are helping in the fight against cancer. And they will dance again — to everything from live bands to Zumba music — on Friday and Saturday at the 18th-annual Dance Marathon in the IMU.

As the largest student-run philanthropic organization on campus, Dance Marathon has raised more than $9.8 million during the last 17 years, and it still thrills and humbles me to reflect upon all the classes of UI students that have helped make this happen. Dance Marathon participants often use the phrase "for the kids" when describing their commitment to helping cure and treat childhood cancers. I find it incredibly moving and inspiring to know that their ongoing generosity "for the kids" also is made possible "by the kids."

I have been lucky enough to have participated in the last five Dance Marathon events with many of these "kids." Each time I do, I am awed by the dedication of the dancers, by the courage of these remarkable patients and their families, and by the power of this grass-roots initiative — which UI students brought to life. For nearly two decades, these students of UI Dance Marathon have been able to provide vital emotional and financial support to patients and families facing childhood cancer.

In fact, Dance Marathon in recent years has made two very significant gifts to our university: an investment of $1 million, in 2008, to establish the UI Dance Marathon Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Research Laboratories, and a 10-year, $5 million pledge, announced in 2011, for the new UI Children's Hospital construction campaign.

This is certainly something worth celebrating — as are the countless UI students who give of themselves to Dance Marathon and other worthy causes throughout campus and in our community. I am so very proud to have the chance to interact with, and help support, this newest generation of Iowa leaders and volunteers. Congratulations to this year's Dance Marathon dancers and leadership team. Let's hear it "for the kids."

Lynette L. Marshall is the president and CEO of the University of Iowa Foundation.


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