Dance Marathon passes $11M in fundraising since 1995


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Four words strung together the spirit of Dance Marathon 18: One Goal, One Fight.

More than 2,300 dancers — a record — gathered in the IMU over the weekend, dancing for 24 hours to raise money for pediatric cancer patients and their families.

Dance Marathon set another record, raising more than $1.3 million for pediatric cancer, beating last year's $1.2 million.


"The total is great, but at the end of the day, it's for the families. It didn't matter what we raised," said Elyse Meardon, the Dance Marathon executive director. "At the same time, it's a great feeling to have the money to provide monetary support for the families."

The IMU erupted in cheers when the announcement that the organization had finally surpassed $10 million raised since the organization began in 1995. The total now stands at $11.2 million.

7:32 p.m. Feb. 3

Thousands of people — adorned primarily in green T-shirts — flooded into the IMU Main Lounge for the Big Event.

Dance Marathon families filed through the Main Lounge shortly after the dancing began.

But some families chose to stay behind in the Nickelodeon family room.

Brenna Teitsworth, 9, was plaing with toys, and her family nearby watched the live feed of the Big Event.

"I am most excied tonight that my sister is still here," she said, glancing over at her older sister, who has been diagnosed with cancer.

11:31 p.m.

Elizabeth Flesher didn't know what to expect before attending her first Big Event this year.

Jacob, her 6-year-old son, is now in remission after being diagnosed with Wilms' tumor, kidney cancer, in December 2010.

"It's something we had never heard of before he was diagnosed," Flesher said. "It's about finding fellowship and celebrating life."

Jacob, who was 5 when he was diagnosed, raised $100 on his own for the Big Event.

8:01 a.m. Feb. 4

Junior Katelyn Schany is donating her hair to Locks of Love for her sister-in-law.

"She never ended up needing it," Schany said; her sister-in-law later died of cancer before she could get a wig. "But everyone who loses their hair deserves to have at least some nice-looking hair."

Schany was one of many women who opted to have their hair cut on stage, while a similar cause, "No Hair Don't Care," for males occurred simultaneously.

UI senior Jack Edwards normally likes his hair cut short, but he wanted to have his head shaved for the kids.

"They have to deal with no hair, so the least I can do is take some off and be with them through it all," he said.

10:18 a.m.

Sierra Manning, an 11-year-old with a cancerous brain-stem tumor, said her goal is to meet every Miss Iowa.

Manning couldn't hide the excitement on her face when Miss Iowa 2011 Jessica Pray arrived in the Nickelodeon family room.

"It felt really good [to meet her]," Manning said. "It feels really good to meet every Miss Iowa."

UI student Pray signed autographs and met with families.

"The kids are my inspiration to get me through the days when I'm tired and have no excuses," she said. "These kids go through so much. It brightens my day more than I think I brighten theirs."

12:04 p.m.

A 7-year-old cancer patient danced his heart out in celebration of this weekend's cause.

He was joined by many other children at the UI Children's Hospital for this year's first Mini Dance Marathon.

"My favorite part of the event was the dancing," Christopher Turnis said.

Ashley Yoder, a member of the family programming committee, said the first-time event is extremely important for the kids who cannot make it to the IMU.

" … They are stuck in the hospital all day, so it kind of brings part of the event to them because a lot of them are sad they are missing out on it, and we don't want them to feel left out," she said.

Christopher's mother Kristina Turnis said her son has made many friends through Dance Marathon.

"There are so many volunteers who have gotten close with Christopher and have become his friend," she said. "That's what makes it special."

4:25 p.m.

Right before Power Hour, the morale captains in training, paired with their morale captains, got ready to go on stage and perform the morale dance for their fellow dancers in the Main Lounge.

Christopher Jones was extremely nervous about performing.

Instead of learning the dance, Jones took a four-hour nap.

"It was fantastic," the 13-year-old said with a huge smile on his face.

He enjoyed the chance to participate in Dance Marathon at a young age.

"Since I had cancer, [Dance Marathon] has been such a big part of my life when I was in the hospital," he said.

Regan Hulsig, 13, said that after participating in the morale captain in training program this year, she's excited about being involved in the future.

"I had cancer, but I am also here to dance for my friends who died of cancer," she said. "I would be interested in doing Dance Marathon in college, and I'd like my friends to do it with me."

6:25 p.m.

Power Hour began later than expected, but dancers carried their energy throughout the 60 minutes of continuous dancing.

"I feel sweaty, but [this experience] is amazing," Justin Suckud said. "All of the people in one area have the same idea, and it's like we're one."

The DJs and morale captains scattered thousands of green glow sticks into the air, illuminating the Main Lounge with a flurry of lime-green light.

"[Dancers] have the ability to be able to feel every emotion in 24 hours," said UI sophomore Emily Bettridge. "You cry, you laugh, you get mad at your friends that you've seen for 24-hours straight … It's literally every emotion possible."

Power Hour ended, and dancers were finally allowed to sit for the first time in 24 hours.

But not for long.

All in the IMU shot up after learning they raised $1.3 million to fight pediatric cancer.

Meardon said fundraising is only one facet of the experience dancers accomplish at the Big Event.

"… the greatest part about Dance Marathon is that we are a family, and families come together," she said.

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