Maucker turns orange for the kids

SYDNEY HAUER, Executive Editor | [email protected]

Cheers and excitement emanated from Maucker Union on Saturday as a sea of orange took over for UNI Dance Marathon (UNI DM)’s annual Big Event.

Participants’ faces were painted with the letters “FTK” (For the Kids), and the main floor of the Union was adorned with orange balloons and streamers.

The 12-hour event ran from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m., and participants were required to stay on their feet the whole time. By the end of the day, participants had raised $680,464.08.

The annual Big Event offers student participants, whether dancers, morale captains or executives, a chance to celebrate all of the work they put in over the past six months collecting donations. It also offers an opportunity for students to meet the “kiddos” and their families that they are sponsoring.

The “kiddos” in attendance were a part of the 63 that UNI DM sponsors during their treatment at the Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City and are well enough to attend. The “kiddos” ran around freely, participating in activities such as an inflatable obstacle course and bungee run in the ballroom.

Very little space in the Union went unused. Rooms in the basement were filled with different activities, such as a silent disco, video games, board games and arts and crafts. Another was an “inspiration room,” which allowed dancers to write letters of inspiration to the kids.

Morale captains, who are each in charge of around 30 dancers, got up on stage every hour on the hour to perform a morale dance. During the four o’clock hour, student organizations, such as the UNI Dance Team and football team, participated in a dance-off.

UNI DM currently has around 800 registered dancers. In order to participate, each dancer has to raise at least $200.

Throughout the day, participants push to raise as much money as they can. Each participant has their own donor drive that they are operating individually. A gong was rang each time $100 was raised, followed by ecstatic cheers from the crowd.

According to Suzanna Groves, a freshman communication sciences and disorders major, the money raised by UNI DM helps to cover a variety of expenses that a family with a child in the hospital can incur in addition to the costs of treatment, such as parking passes, wigs, care packages and meals.

Groves has been involved in Dance Marathon since high school and wanted to stay involved when she came to UNI.

“I think it’s a great way to get to know kids, but also empathize with those who are going through hard times,” said Groves.

Her favorite part about the Big Event is the spirit and excitement that participants bring.

“Building up to it, it’s been kind of just go, go, go, but today has been a day to really reflect and be like, wow, we really did all of that. Everyone is so happy today, and that’s something that’s really great too.”

Regan Rowenhorst is a sophomore history education major, and this year was her first participating in Dance Marathon. She decided to become a morale captain after she was influenced to do so by her friends.

“I just kind of dove into it and I’ve been learning about it since then,” said Rowenhorst. “It was honestly impulsive and I’ve gotten my passion since then from it which was really exciting.”

She wanted to get involved in an organization that helps cancer patients after the passing of her father this summer from brain cancer. She found Dance Marathon to be a suitable organization through which she could dedicate volunteer work to him.

Rowenhorst’s favorite parts of Dance Marathon are inspiring her dancers and experiencing the small moments that happen throughout the day.

“This morning when I was getting ready, I was stretching because I was going to be dancing a lot, and this little miracle kiddo came up to me and she started stretching with me,” Rowenhorst said. “I like seeing little moments like that.”

Rowenhorst was particularly influenced and inspired by a story told to her by a mother of a “dancing in our hearts” kiddo, who died of his illness.

“She said that she loves Dance Marathon because when her son passed away, everyone kind of moved on and she didn’t, and Dance Marathon is a day for her to still be his mom. That story broke my heart absolutely.”

Rowenhorst said that she thinks more students should become involved with Dance Marathon.

“I feel like dance marathon is one of those things that people once they get into, they feel like they should’ve been doing it all four years. I’m sad that I missed last year.”

Paul Lee’s daughter Josephine is one of the “Miracle Kiddos.” This was his family’s fifth year participating in Dance Marathon.

Josephine was born with a brain disease that left her irresponsive upon birth and caused brain failure and full-body seizures.

“Fortunately, the treatment at Iowa City, coupled with the research and the money raised from Dance Marathon, was able to stop the seizures and stop the brain loss and actually reverse most of it,” said Lee.

He came to UNI in the 2000s in pursuit of a graduate degree in non-profit management.

“Volunteering has been a lot of my blood and a lot of who I am, but to see the thousands of college students who give up so much of their social time and their study time to raise money and bring awareness to all these kids that live right here in our area and their terminal or life-threatening illness, it’s just a lifesaver. It truly is.”

He said he is truly grateful for the students who are inspired by his daughter’s story and that they have the students to look up to as role models.

“I don’t think the college students realize how much of a role model they serve for all of the miracle kiddos and their siblings, as you can have a productive life and still give back and still have fun and still do those things, so it means a lot.”

Lee encouraged students to get involved.

“This is one of those things that will forever change your outlook on life – whether you’re just a dancer or you volunteer in some other way,” Lee said. “Being involved in something like Dance Marathon, where you can see kids that are truly miracles and kids that are suffering, you can hear the story of kids who have lost their battle and just be inspired that there is something worth living for, and to take care of that next generation.”