Iowa City businesses giving back 'For The Kids'


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The University of Iowa Dance Marathon has raised more than $11.2 million since 1995. And as its 2013 Big Event nears, officials say their continued success would not be possible without numerous local business partnerships.

“To see an entire community come together to provide gift cards, food for the Big Event, and monetary donations is very humbling,” executive sponsorship director Megan Hoffman said. “I always knew that Iowa City was a neat city, but when an entire community can come together to make a difference for a cause such as pediatric cancer is amazing.”

Dance Marathon’s effect supporting families and kids with pediatric cancer has continued to expand, and its partnerships with businesses have mirrored that growth.

Z’Mariks Noodle Cafe

As one of the first area restaurants to partner with UI Dance Marathon, Z’Mariks’ half-decadelong commitment is one of the most varied.

“We try to keep our fundraising dollars local,” general manager Eric Beck said. “We generally do two to three Community Days throughout the year. On these days, we see a huge spike in business, and throughout the year, we see a lot of faces who are associated with Dance Marathon on a daily basis."

Over the past few years, Z’Mariks, 19 S. Dubuque St., has expanded its fundraising reach by feeding Dance Marathon the Marathon runners each year for the Chicago Marathon.  New this year, at least 20 families will receive Z’Mariks gift cards valued at $25.

Yotopia Frozen Yogurt

Providing dozens of gallons of frozen yogurt for an estimated 2,000 hungry and adrenaline-driven dancers is no easy task, but owner Veronica Tessler of Yotopia Frozen Yogurt, 132 S. Clinton St., believes a nearly day’s worth of preparation needed is far and away worth the cause.

“Dance Marathon is just one of those outlets giving to such an important cause,” Tessler said. “The students are obviously a huge customer base, and as an Iowa City business, we feel particularly drawn to the Dance Marathon community.”

Panda Express

For more than three years, local Iowa City and Coralville Panda Express locations have donated seemingly endless pounds of steamed and fried rice alongside the popular Orange Chicken that feeds between 1,000 to 1,400 people at the Big Event, general manager Howe Goh of the Iowa City store, 1035 Highway 1, said.

“We have a nationwide event called Panda Care that every year works with children, donating food for Dance Marathon and the Children’s Miracle Network," he said. “This year, we’re donating about $6,000 worth of food.”

Formosa Asian Cuisine

For Formosa Asian Cuisine, 221 E. College St., much of its three-year commitment to the Dance Marathon community can be traced to a single item on its menu: the Dance Marathon sushi roll.

“We were trying to come up with more ways to get involved,” owner George Etre said about the dedicated item. “[It] is one of our most popular rolls. Even for people who don’t order the roll, the menu says that  $1 of the proceeds will go to Dance Marathon. It’s not only about raising money, it’s about raising awareness.”

Stephanie Crippen/Iowa Book

First diagnosed at age 10 and again at 13, UI junior Stephanie Crippen turned her personal battle with Ewing’s sarcoma into a two-year business partnership between Dance Marathon and her former employer, Iowa Book, 8 S. Clinton St.

Crippen decorates donation cans set out in the store and has raised approximately $400 between the cans and family and friend donations.

“I’ve always wanted to go over the $1,000 mark, and I am hoping to do so before I graduate,” she said. “My graduation event at the Big Event was a really defining moment. You realize that now you’re on the other side of the spectrum giving back to other families.”

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