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Philanthropy in Motion

BY GUEST OPINION | APRIL 17, 2012 6:30 AM

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Each year, thousands of University of Iowa freshmen come to campus with certain expectations.

They expect quality academics, professors willing to go above and beyond, interesting coursework, and opportunities to meet new people and create lifelong friendships. These UI students are focused on their futures and on making the most of their years in college.

That certainly was true in my case. I came to campus expecting to learn everything I needed to know merely by being in the classroom and reading my textbooks. I didn't realize then that Iowa also would give me philanthropic opportunities that would help change my life — and the lives of others.

College is, without a doubt, pegged as a "selfish" time — a time to focus on you. That's exactly what I had intended to do when I came to college, until I got involved in UI Dance Marathon.

Dance Marathon is the largest student-run philanthropic organization west of the Mississippi River, and it provides emotional and monetary support for pediatric-oncology patients who are being treated at the UI Children's Hospital and their families.

Students become involved with Dance Marathon for a variety of reasons: to build their résumés, to meet new people, or to further their volunteer-service experiences for postgraduate applications.

However, I'd be hard-pressed to find one student involved with Dance Marathon who doesn't understand that all of our efforts are truly "For the Kids."

Dance Marathon goes far beyond raising money "For the Kids." Students willingly spend time with families who are going through the most difficult times of their lives. They develop leadership and peer-management skills, they make tough decisions, they hold themselves to high moral values, and they live their lives with integrity. Above all, Dance Marathon helps them give to others.

Those of us involved with Dance Marathon aren't just giving to the kids, either — we also help our community and our campus. That's why "philanthropy" means more to me today than it did when I first became involved in Dance Marathon.

I now understand that philanthropy is about much more than just raising money or doing "charity work." Philanthropy means showing a love of humanity and a personal concern for the welfare of others. It means stepping outside of your comfort zone, taking a stand, and transforming someone else's life by giving of your time and talents. Philanthropy is about enriching the future through the actions of today — regardless of how small they may seem at the time.

Through Dance Marathon, which fulfilled a part of my college experience that textbooks and lectures could not, I have forged an enduring bond with my university. The philanthropic culture is alive and well here, and I feel a sense of pride knowing that my philanthropic efforts not only have touched the lives of others but also this campus and the university's future leaders. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to do so.

Elyse Meardon
executive director of UI Dance Marathon 2012


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