Guest opinion: Congratulations to Dance Marathon


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Summer vacations … football games … first dates … roughhousing with siblings — Hannah Travis dances so that children can experience these ordinary life events.

How Hannah and her fellow Hawkeyes are lending a hand to children in need, though, is far from ordinary.

This past weekend, thousands of UI students spent 24 hours at the IMU, dancing and raising more than $1.8 million for children who are fighting cancer. And although their main event is over, the students aren’t done; they volunteer and raise money throughout the year through a variety of activities. This group of students is extraordinary, and they are steadily — and joyfully — having an effect on the lives of patients and families at UI Children’s Hospital.

When Hannah, now a UI senior, signed up to participate in her first Dance Marathon, she didn’t fully understand what the organization was all about. She had heard quite a bit about Dance Marathon and its Big Event during new-student orientation and decided to give it a shot.  Now, five years later, Hannah has risen through the ranks of this student-run organization — first as morale captain assistant, then morale captain, sponsorship chairwoman, and, this year, special events chairwoman — and says there are “a million reasons” she dances.

This year, UI Dance Marathon celebrated its 20th year of providing vital 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 $13 million throughout the last 20 years, and it recently made two significant gifts to the University of Iowa Foundation for UI Health Care: 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.

As president of the UI Foundation, I have participated in seven Dance Marathon events, and I’ve had the privilege to interact with Hannah and other student leaders like her. I am in awe of what these students have accomplished. The UI Foundation wholeheartedly supports Dance Marathon, as does the entire UI community. In fact, UI President Sally Mason personally supported dozens of this year’s participants.

It is deeply moving to witness the dedication of the dancers, as well as the courage and grace of the patients and families who receive their support.

On behalf of everyone at the UI Foundation, I would like to congratulate this year’s Dance Marathon participants, the leadership team, and all those who support them in their remarkable fight against cancer. I’m grateful for all you do … For the Kids.

Lynette Marshall is president and CEO of the University of Iowa Foundation, a nonprofit organization and preferred channel for private contributions that benefit all areas of the University of Iowa.

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