Marshall: UI Dance Marathon crucial to patients and families


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Dashiell Codd loves playing with his brothers, laughing at silly jokes, and dancing to the Muppets. His favorite Muppets song is “Mahna Mahna,” and he’s been able to watch dozens of people — friends, family, and even strangers — sing “do-doo-be-do-do” on a special “Mahna Mahna” Facebook page that his parents created to cheer him up during a very difficult time.

Last March, doctors diagnosed 5-year-old Dashiell with a rare pediatric liver cancer called hepatoblastoma, and it has been resistant to treatment. That hasn’t stopped a group of University of Iowa students from “putting the hammer down on cancer” by dancing for Dashiell at the 19th-annual UI Dance Marathon.

Group 49, the team of UI students dancing in Dashiell’s honor, joined with 2,100 registered dancers in a very special event that raised more than $1.5 million this year. I have been lucky enough to have participated in the last six Dance Marathon events on campus, and it still fills me with deep emotion when I reflect on how many UI students have danced for kids such as Dashiell.

For nearly two decades, UI Dance Marathon has been able to provide crucial emotional and financial support to patients and families facing childhood cancer. As the largest student-run philanthropic organization on campus, it has raised more than $12.7 million throughout the last 19 years, and it recently made two very significant gifts for our university: an investment of $1 million, in 2008, to establish the UI Dance Marathon Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Research Laboratories, and a 10-year, $5 million pledge, announced in 2011, for the new UI Children’s Hospital building campaign.

I am overwhelmed by the power of this grass-roots initiative. I also am awed by the dedication of the dancers — and by the courage and grace of the patients and families who participate in Dance Marathon.

In my role as president of the UI Foundation, I have had the wonderful opportunity of interacting with the newest generation of Dance Marathon leaders and volunteers. This is the second year that the foundation and its Student Philanthropy Group have participated in the Family External Representative program, which matches groups of UI students with patients and their families.

As part of this year’s program, 40 members of the Sigma Chi fraternity were able to reconnect with the 13-year-old patient with whom they’ve corresponded throughout the past few years. And 40 UI students, who were part of Morale Group 24, were able to meet with a 5-year-old patient during last weekend’s event. It was these kinds of moments that made the foot-stomping energy of Dance Marathon 2013 so memorable.

On behalf of all of us at the UI Foundation, I would like to congratulate this year’s Dance Marathon dancers and leadership team — and thank them for their participation. I am very grateful that children such as Dashiell Codd don’t have to dance alone.

Lynette L. Marshall
president and CEO of the UI Foundation

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