Dance Marathon 20 kicks off tonight


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Dance Marathon is back in the limelight as tonight marks the 20th Big Event at the University of Iowa.

A lot has changed in Dance Marathon over the past 20 years. Mary Schlapkohl, a nurse practitioner in child oncology, attended the first planning meeting for Dance Marathon 1. She said it has been amazing to watch the event transform.

“Back then, I would’ve never guessed that it would’ve grown to the level that it is [at] today,” she said. “Not just financially, but more importantly, to our families. [Dance Marathon] has really become an integral part of the care we provide.”

Twenty years ago, the dancers were on their feet for 36 hours compared with the current 24. The 1995 Dance Marathon raised $31,000, helping around two dozen families.

Dance Marathon in 2013 raised $1,529,650.19, and now the organization reaches more than 700 families.

Dance Marathon 20 Executive Director Daniel Morse said one of the biggest evolvements is the roots Dance Marathon has created. When the first Dance Marathon occurred, some UI freshmen were not yet born. Morse said students now have brothers, sisters, cousins, and even parents who participated, and he sees the tradition continuing.

Media-relations head Taylor McKee said this growth is one of the most amazing parts of working with Dance Marathon.

“It’s weird to think this organization has been around virtually as long as I’ve been alive,” she said. “It’s crazy to think that it started off with just a few people, and now we have over 100 people on leadership and 2,000 plus dancers. It’s really amazing to see that over all these years, people haven’t lost interest.”

Dance Marathon 20 is featuring a variety of alumni events in order to honor the work that has lead the Big Event to where it is today. There will be a reception for alumni this evening, among other things.

Morse said he is excited to see the Dance Marathon community come together.

“With its being the 20th year, we are expecting a huge alumni turnout,” he said. “I’m excited to see the excitement and energy that former leaders still have for Dance Marathon.”

Entertainment acts for the night include bands South Six Five, Jocelyn, and Mansions on the Moon. The event will run similarly to last year, but Morse said some space will be compromised because of construction projects at the IMU.

From families sharing their stories every hour to the group circles, many traditions have been formed throughout the past 20 years. No matter how much changes, the same message always proves true. It’s all for the kids.

McKee said those who are experiencing this life-changing event for the first time are in for a serious treat.

“I really love to watch first-year dancers,” she said. “It’s really fun to watch someone experience [Dance Marathon] for the first time because it’s almost like getting to experience [your] first time again, which is a magical experience.”

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