Dance Marathon offers new incentive for dancers

BY ALY BROWN | JULY 24, 2012 6:30 AM

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There will most likely be more dancing in the halls this year at the University of Iowa Children's Hospital thanks to a new fundraising initiative for Dance Marathon 19.

UI Dance Marathon participants who raise $200 by Aug. 1 are guaranteed a trip to the Children's Hospital sometime during the school year.

Lauren Glantz, the Dance Marathon marketing director, said the organization is offering this opportunity for the first time this year to encourage dancers to get a head start on fundraising and understanding what the group is about.

"We originally thought about doing some sort of prize or some sort of tangible item," she said. "But this year, the biggest goal we have for dancers is for them to realize what Dance Marathon is about before the 24-hour event."

Glantz said the executive council wants dancers to be engaged with Dance Marathon events outside of the main event.

"One of our biggest goals this year is to create a yearlong experience for dancers — not just experience Dance Marathon as 24 hours but experience it as 365 days as we like to think of it," she said.

Hospital visits have historically been restricted to the organization leaders, but one Dance Marathon leader said the organization is getting dancers involved for the kids.

"The hospital is very supportive of our organization, and it's a really great experience for the kids because they look up to the dancers," said Jenny Earl, the Dance Marathon media chairwoman and a former Daily Iowan employee. "It's good to give them a role model outside of their family, and many of the dancers who have visited the hospital made personal connections with the kids."

She said dancers usually participate in other organization activities, such as flash mobs, baseball games, and the 5K run, but officials are trying to get dancers involved with the hospital programs, which include playtime nights for kids and date nights for parents.

"There is not so much activity in the hospital itself, and hospital visits are a big special deal," she said. "It's really exciting to make personal connections with the kids before we see them at the big event, and it's a really good opportunity for dancers. We are encouraging people to raise the money and to get this experience, because it may influence them in becoming leaders in the future."

Becca Mitsos, the Dance Marathon recruitment head, said visiting families at the Children's Hospital grounds her when she gets caught up in the planning and details.

"Getting up to the hospital floor and interacting with the parents and kids puts things into perspective very quickly and is always the perfect way to remind anyone what's really important," she said.

Kaitlin Flannery, the Dance Marathon hospital director, said the hospital programs mean more to the families than just the money the organization has gathered.

"These programs are what parents always talk about when they talk about why they appreciate Dance Marathon," she said. "It's easy to tell dancers that we have raised $1 million for the hospital or easy monetary things, but these visits and our presence in the hospital are what really make an impression."

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