Iowa schools participate in Dance Marathon events


A sea of orange shirts crowded around a small stage as teachers, students, and parents held their breath while two teenage girls volunteered to donate their luscious locks.

Puffs of brunette and blond hair speckled the floor — along with the tears of West High students and teachers who danced as a part of Dance Marathon for more than five hours straight.

This high school is not the only school to host mini-Dance Marathons. Elementary, junior-high, and high schools across the state host their own mini marathons leading up to The Big Event on Friday and Saturday.

“We are able to work with the mini-Dance Marathons in eastern Iowa, but there are many more around the state,” said Sammie Marks, the executive development director for the University of Iowa Dance Marathon. “With ISU, UNI, and other Team Iowa programs, we are very careful to only work with schools in a certain radius of the University of Iowa so that the other dance marathons can have the same success.”

In Iowa City alone, more than half the elementary schools and two junior-high schools host smaller Dance Marathon events.

City High hosted its first ever mini-Dance Marathon, and West High hosted its second mini-Dance Marathon in January.

“Every school is different,” Marks said. “Some schools are ‘veteran programs’ that have had programs for more than five years, while others are only a few years old. I know that our overall mini program has existed since before [2006].”

In addition to the funds raised for the Big Event, mini-Dance Marathons can contribute anywhere from $100 to $50,000 during their events.

Although some students at various schools danced for more than five hours, others decided to host bake sales or conduct silent auctions to help fundraise.

“Every school is incredibly different when it comes to how they put on their mini event,” Marks said. “Some solely sell baked goods while others hold 12-hour events. Some [events] have silent auctions and food [and] some do not. We are fortunate to work with schools in all different areas of eastern Iowa where each delivers their own special hometown taste to their events. “

West High teacher Jenifer Secrist said it’s important to get younger students involved in Dance Marathon to help them feel part of something larger than themselves.

“I think it’s really important to start younger, the younger the better,” Secrist said, who has helped organize West’s event. “We look at ourselves as an event, and we want ours to be contributed to the university’s.”

Marks said mini-Dance Marathons are becoming more popular because school officials think students can benefit from the “cause.”

“They are becoming more popular,” Marks said. “Most school administrators like and love the idea of a dance event, going from the fancy clothes to students clad in sports clothes showing off their silly dance moves, especially because it’s for an excellent cause.”

West senior Meredith Arpey, who was involved with the school’s first mini-event in 2012, was excited to be able end her senior year as a morale captain of one of the more than 10 groups in the event.

“I think it’s amazing to touch many more lives,” Arpey said. “I hope every school can [host a mini-dance marathon] to be part of this charity organization.”

Although schools can take up to five or six months of planning, some teachers want to help continue organizing mini-Dance Marathons for their students.

“It’s life changing,” Secrist said. “My full-time job is a teacher, but I’m passionate to help [the students] realize they are more powerful than they know, and as long as there is cancer, we will continue to dance.”

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