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Dance Marathon begins tonight

BY ALYSSA GUZMAN | FEBRUARY 06, 2015 5:00 AM

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On most days, the IMU is filled with students studying, job fairs, and University of Iowa events.
But tonight, a different event will take the limelight — one that includes a sea of more than 2,000 dancers shouting “F-T-K.”

Those three letters represent the famous slogan of Dance Marathon, “For the Kids.” As one of the Founding Five Dance Marathons in the country, the Big Event kicks off for the 21st time today, and it will run through Saturday evening.

“[We’re] one of the oldest Dance Marathons in the country,” said UI senior Erin Larsen, the executive director of UI Dance Marathon.

Dance Marathon ranks third for most money raised in the country, with Penn State coming in first and Indiana University second.

This year, members hope to reach a new goal — raising $2 million. And on top of that, the Dance Marathon leadership has also introduced slight changes regarding the event’s entertainment.

“Typically, we have a big musical act that headlines, but this year, we have a comedian and a musician,” said UI senior Drake Wilbur, Dance Marathon’s public relations and marketing director.

The comedian is Brooks Wheelan, a UI alumnus who has appeared on “Saturday Night Live.” Kevin Valentine, a musician from Nashville, will also attend.

“We’re really excited to have [them],” Wilbur said.

In addition to the entertainment, Dance Marathon officials also expect a large number of people to attend.

“We are very optimistic about our numbers,” Wilbur said. “We think we’ve had so much engagement throughout the year with our participants, so we’re excited to see them raise their money and come to the Big Event.”

UI senior Brian Wall, the Dance Marathon executive family-relations director, said the group expects more than 1,000 Dance Marathon families to be at the Big Event.

“That’s our most ever,” he said. “It really is rewarding, because all these families are really, really appreciative of what we do.”

One such family is the Phillips family, whose son, Carter, was diagnosed with leukemia at 17 months old.

Carter is now 11 and cancer-free, but the Phillips family still looks forward to the Big Event every year.

“We haven’t missed one since,” said George Phillips, Carter’s father. “This will be our 11th [Dance Marathon].”

Phillips said as Carter has grown older, he has become more involved by hanging out with the college dancers and viewing them as friends and role models.

“It’s fun to go and see all the dancers and go see all of your friends,” Carter said. “It’s really cool, because there are a bunch of different things you can do. You can go dance, or you can go to the video-game ring. There are board games and a bouncy house.”

Phillips said the Big Event is always on their family calendar and holds just as high as a priority as anything else.

“I think Dance Marathon is by far one of the most incredible organizations you can ever hope to be affiliated with,” he said. “You could not ask for more amazing support when you’re going through that battle with childhood cancer.”


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