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Keeping the morale dancing

BY MITCH MCANDREW | FEBRUARY 05, 2015 5:00 AM

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It’s hour No. 15. Legs are sore, eyes are heavy, energy is low, yet nine long hours remain.

Enter the University of Iowa Dance Marathon’s morale  captains.

“If I’m dancing my heart out with a smile on my face all night, then hopefully, I can keep other dancers energized,” said Jess Kuennen, a UI senior human physiology major and the morale captain of Group 40. “I’ll just try to be as excited as I possibly can.”

While keeping dancers enthusiastic during the Big Event may be the most challenging part of the morale captains’ job, it only scratches the surface of their many duties.

“They help out a lot with recruiting new students and helping them find their own passions for Dance Marathon,” said Ricky Stochl, a senior biomedical engineering major and this year’s morale director.

Apart from recruiting new dancers and keeping their spirits high, the captains’ duties also include fundraising assistance, communication, and education.

“They serve as the most direct contact between the Dance Marathon leadership and our dancers,” said Drake Wilbur, the PR and marketing director for Dance Marathon.

He said most of the training is intent on preparing the captains to answer any questions on fundraising, dancing, or service that the dancers might have.

On top of that, Stochl said, the captains try to form personal connections with their dancers, teaching them how to raise funds and encouraging them to attend events.

While the morale captains diligently ready themselves for Dance Marathon, Stochl said, all the preparation in the world can still fall short.

“There’s just no way to train for the 24-hour dance,” he said. “When it comes down to it, you have to use your own passions to get you through.”

For Drew Van Arsdale, a junior studying psychology and secondary education and the morale captain of Group 22, it’s all about the kids.

“It’s awesome to see all the kids having a blast and smiling,” he said. “You just have to stay on your feet and remember what you’re doing it for.”

Obviously, being a morale captain for such an event is no walk in the park. For this reason, a fairly rigorous hiring process is employed by Dance Marathon to find its captains.

“The captains, just like everyone else on the leadership team, have to apply and interview,” Wilbur said.

Both Kuennen and Van Arsdale attest to the addictive power of Dance Marathon.

“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I was absolutely blown away by the experience and the organization,” Kuennen said.

Van Arsdale was hooked in a similar way.

“It took me five minutes into the event to realize how amazing it was,” he said. “It’s been one of the most amazing experiences of my life.”


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