Dance Marathon surpasses $2 million


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Dance Marathon 21 is officially in the books, and it will be one to remember.

This year was a record-breaker, raising more than $2 million, all for pediatric cancer.

Dancers raised a total of $2,001,856.21, $200,824.01 more than last year.

More than 2,500 dancers took over the IMU from 7 p.m. Feb. 6 night until 7 p.m. Feb.7. Fundraisers, dancers, and families of children involved in the Dance Marathon organization gathered in and around the IMU Main Ballroom to listen to families speak, comedians and musicians perform, and most importantly, dance.

“Yeah, it’s exhausting, but just keep going for the kids,” freshman dancer Hannah Gillaspey said.

“Yeah, our feet hurt and everything, but they suffer cancer every day of their lives.”

9:45 p.m., DJs keep the energy spinning

An often-overlooked aspect of dancing for 24 hours is the music. The Big Event DJs, consisting of DJ Inzane, DJ Big D, DJ NYJ, and DJ Commando, have been spinning tunes for the event since 1998.

“It’s much, much more than just a gig for us,” DJ Inzane said.

The group also helps keep the energy up in the ballroom by never playing the same song twice.

“We have several remixes of every song, so it’s always fresh,” DJ Big D said.

The DJs intend to continue being a fixture at the event for many years to come.

“Once you meet the kids and talk to the families, it’s just something you have to do,” DJ Inzane said.

4:55 p.m., Dance Marathon 21 evacuated during the 10th hour

Late in the 10th hour of the Big Event, dancers, families, and volunteers were evacuated to Madison Street.

According to Dance Marathon officials, a fire alarm sent out was a false alarm. Dance Marathon 21 officials told The Daily Iowan that safety is a priority and protocol was properly followed, hence the evacuation.

IMU facility coordinator Barb Gartner said a pull station was activated on the second floor of the Iowa House Hotel.

Nearby, officials opened Danforth Chapel to keep dancers out of the cold while they chanted “FTK.”

University of Iowa senior Whitney Duhrkopf said the change of pace wasn’t the worst thing that could happen.

“It was exciting,” she said. “It spiced things up. It woke everyone up a little.”

7:45 a.m., Dance Marathon 21 leaders: ‘Bald is beautiful’

Dance Marathon leadership members climbed onto the stage 7 a.m. to have their heads shaved in front of the audience.

Four students, two men and two women, sat side-by-side to get a complete buzz-cut shave. The hair will be donated to make wigs for children going through chemotherapy through a nonprofit organization, Children With Hair Loss.

The entire time, the audience chanted the organization’s motto, “For The Kids” as motivation.
Morale captain Clayton Adams, who was one of the four to get his hair buzzed, had grown his hair out for a year and a half in anticipation for the shaving, he said afterwards.

“There’s no better way to show kids you care about them and that bald is beautiful,” Adams said.
Junior Tori McCoy had her long hair buzzed on stage as well.

“I like my long hair, and I like to do my hair on occasion; other than that, I always put my hair in a ponytail,” she said. “If a little girl can have it … she’s doing so much more with it than I would.”

1:30 p.m., ‘In the Lime Light’ Kiddo talent show

During Hour 17, a few brave kiddos took the stage to show off their skills in the Big Event talent show.

Performers varied in their talents, from singing to playing the keyboard and more.

One performer in particular stood out for the audience — 17-year-old Aubree Werner, who has been involved in Dance Marathon since 1998, when she was less than 1 year old. She was diagnosed with osteoporosis, a cancer in the bones. She will be five years’ cancer free this year in September.

“She’s got such a cute attitude, she’s warming up the whole crowd,” said first-time-dancer sophomore Brittany Kinzler. “It’s just incredible to watch that.”

On stage, Aubree expressed her gratitude for the people in the audience.

“Dance Marathon will forever be a place I will come back to,” Aubree said. “I love it so much; you guys are like a second family to me.”

3:34 p.m., Graduation celebrates five years cancer free

Since its inception five years ago, the graduation component of the event has been a crowd favorite, and this year was no different.

Nineteen yellow robes, worn by graduates ages 5 to 18, walked across the stage to wild applause in celebration of five years of being cancer-free.

“It’s basically the whole goal of what we’re looking to do at Dance Marathon,” said Brian Wall, the director of family relations for the group.

The speakers lauded the kids for conquering horrid obstacles such as spinal taps, transplants, port insertions, and lots of chemotherapy.

While the ceremony provides the satisfaction of a job well done for some, it provides even more motivation to finish the job for others.

“If they can do that, then hey, I can do this,” said McKenna Karsten, a junior at the University of Northern Iowa dancing for her first time.

Graduation also outlines Dance Marathon’s ultimate intent; curing cancer.

“If we can see every kid diagnosed walk across that stage at some point, then we’ve done our job,” Wall said.

If the data are any indicators, the organization is creeping toward this goal. The number is rising slightly every year, and it looks as though it will continue to do so, officials said.

“To us, the people walking across the stage represent much more than just a type of cancer; they represent all that the family has been through, and all that the family has ultimately overcome,” Wall said.

5:45 p.m., Dancers push through final hours

In the final stretch of the Big Event, dancers were encouraged to dance as a group one last time, during the 23rd hour.

At 5 p.m., morale captains joined on stage to get the crowd enthusiastic about finishing Dance Marathon strong. Glow sticks were thrown from the stage towards the crowd and black lights filled the Main Ballroom.

“It was awesome to see the glow sticks and all the kids running around,” Gillaspey said.

Upbeat songs that could appeal to the wide-ranging age group were played through the speakers. A traditional “Livin’ on a Prayer” got everyone dancing, including parents and Dance Marathon families.

Throughout the event, dancers rely on each other to persevere.

“You just want to sit down, but you hear the family speak and it gives you that last little push that you need to complete it,” said freshman dancer Allie Weis. “Everyone around you is pumped up and encouraging everyone, and it makes it a lot easier to stay on your feet and keep going for that last hour.”

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