Dancers set sights on breaking $10 million mark


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University of Iowa Dance Marathon leaders say they plan to outdo themselves again this year.

Since Dance Marathon started at the UI 19 years ago, the organization has set a fundraising record each year. The organization will reveal at its Big Event this Saturday whether it topped last year's $1.2 million mark.

With more than 400 more student dancers and Spirit Dancers registered for this years' Dance Marathon than last year, members of the 2012 Leadership Team said they are excited to see how much money is raised to benefit the UI Children's Hospital.

"That's what makes it so exciting throughout the year," said Dan Smith, the organization's business director. "We don't really know [the total] until after the big event. We really encourage people to go out and raise the money."

The biggest share — 68 percent — of the total money raised by Dance Marathon goes toward staff positions and education, new equipment, the updating of facilities, and research for ending pediatric cancer, Smith said.

Around 17 percent of Dance Marathon money goes toward total emotional support for children and families being treated for cancer. Another 14 percent goes toward total family financial support, which includes hospital and prescription costs along with other expenses. And 1 percent funds total educational resources, which involves projects and programs that help children as well as parents with newly diagnosed children.

Smith said in 2010 Dance Marathon made a 2-year, $1 million commitment to the UI Children's Hospital to support research. More than half of the money goes toward renovation of laboratory space for the research and the other portion creates a special research fund.

According to the UI Dance Marathon website, the renovated lab area will be named the UI Dance Marathon Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Research Laboratories in recognition of the gift.

"Over the next few years, we will help with that. It will be fun to see the culmination," said Smith.
Dance Marathon sponsorship director Grant Gillon said there are nine sponsorship levels ranging from $250 to $15,000, each with different incentives for businesses. Both monetary and in-kind donations are a factor in incentive levels.

"At the highest level, [businesses] can have an hour at the Big Event sponsored by their company," he said. "Others can get a logo on our t-shirt or hang a banner at the Big Event."

Some top-level sponsors, or "presenting sponsors," this year are Best Buy, Panchero's, and Clear Channel Radio of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. Other sponsors include Cold Stone Creamery, Panda Express, and Crystal Clear Water Co., Gillon said.

He said another way money is raised is through donations and Dance Marathon's partnership with the UI Foundation through the matching gifts program. For example, he said, if a student dancer has a friend or relative that works for a company with a matching gifts program, that person can make a donation and their company would donate the same amount.

"It's a good way to bring in a lot of extra money from a single donation from a family member," said Gillon.

Chad Howard, development director of Dance Marathon, said he essentially works with fundraising in the community and building partnerships with different businesses.

"We create community days, which promote businesses giving back a certain amount of their proceeds on given days," he said. "My team also works with Eastern Iowa schools to have mini Dance Marathons. Elementary, middle, and high schools will hold them and raise money for the cause."

The nearly $10 million the group has raised in the last two decades isn't necessarily made up of high-dollar donations. Smith said Dance Marathon the Marathon participants — dancers who compete in the Chicago Marathon to raise money — sometimes receive 26 cent donations to reflect the 26.2 mile distance of the race.

"Any donation helps," he said.

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