Dance Marathon: Organizers call Dance Marathon a two-way charity


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The most advertised goal for this weekend's Dance Marathon event is raising money to help families beat cancer.

But organizers said they hope something more meaningful comes out of the big dance for participants and the families than just the money they are raising.

University of Iowa Dance Marathon executive director Elyse Meardon said she wants dancers to feel an emotional attachment to what they're doing.

"It's not fun to go and stand for 24 hours if you don't get anything out of it, too," she said. "We want them to meet kids, listen to family stories and really, genuinely feel connected and that they belong there and they feel like they're a part of something bigger."

Participating families have extended Dance Marathon efforts beyond the dance itself. One family created and sold cookbooks and craft books to raise money for the cause. One established a golf tournament to honor their son, who died of cancer. Yet another has helped new mothers in the organization craft bow ties to sell for $5 apiece.

Families such as these will inspire dancers during the 24-hour event.

Dance Marathon adviser Courtney Bond said the families speaking throughout the night are a huge motivation for participants.

"We usually have about one family speaker an hour to tell their story to remind the dancers why we're doing this," Bond said. "And it always seems like dancers are rejuvenated after hearing the stories."

Entertainment chairman and UI junior Ben Bordeaux said he hopes the experience will teach dancers to appreciate what they have in life and learn from the optimism families use to face tragic situations.

"[The families are] going through it with a smile on their faces," he said. "That's the message we'd like to portray to dancers."

Students and the families they dance for are encouraged to interact throughout the Big Event, the entertainment director said.

"We always love to see kids walking up to college students and dancing with them," Bordeaux said. "They love college kids. The families really want to interact with you and let their kids meet you because the families are really proud of you."

The event creates a unique opportunity for families and individuals dealing with the effects of cancer, Bordeaux said.

"For some of these families, their kid goes home, and their kid is still sick," he said. "This big 24-hour event is that one day of the year where these kids are able to have fun. They're able to forget their hospital visits, getting their blood drawn, and the needles, and the finger pricks. They can run around with a bunch of college students, and they get to have their time in the spotlight."

Parents of the children can also find solace in the event.

"We hope there's an opportunity for the families' moms and dads to rest and find support groups," Bordeaux said. "But especially for the kids, it's time to forget the sickness and enjoy life."

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