Iowa sisters keep Dance Marathon in the family


When Vanessa Mayer joined Dance Marathon in 2003, she didn’t expect it to become a family tradition that would last more than 10 years.

Since then, both her younger sisters, Cassondra and Emma Boehmer, have followed in her dance steps.

“I would like to say I’m the trendsetter,” Mayer said.  “What I would get involved in, they would, too. But I wouldn’t have known they were going to be so into it. We all ended up on leadership team and got really involved.”

This year, Emma Boehmer, the development director for Dance Marathon 21, will graduate.

“I heard about it, I think, when I was in fourth grade, when my oldest sister got involved,” she said. “And from there, they were just really super involved in it. And when I came here, it wasn’t a question. It was a no-brainer.”

All three sisters have been Dance Marathon dancers, then went on to leadership roles including being morale captains. But each has paved a unique path in the Dance Marathon community.

In high school, Boehmer started a mini Dance Marathon at her school, Osage High. In that first year, she said about $1,000 was raised, and since the mini’s inception, students continue to raise anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000.

Boehmer said it isn’t uncommon for sets of siblings to be involved with Dance Marathon, especially when older brothers and sisters are in leadership positions.

But Boehmer said her situation is unique because of how much older her sisters are — six and eight years.

“I always had a passion for helping others, and the impact the organization had on my sister and the community was obvious,” Cassondra Boehmer said.

Cassondra and Emma Boehmer’s Dance Marathon path has crossed a little bit more than their eldest sister.

Both became close to a single family, and Emma Boehmer said she has also grown up with her Dance Marathon family.

Boehmer said sister Cassondra will make the trip from Chicago to Iowa City on Feb. 6 for the Big Event — especially because their kiddo will graduate this year for being five-year cancer free.

“She is so excited; she sends a little Instagram picture to us I think once a week,” Emma Boehmer said. “It’s so great because they’re still in contact with a lot of their old family reps, so people as old as my sister are still coming back. It’s really cool to see that however many years they’ve been involved that they are still so excited to be here and they are so excited to come.”

Although Mayer said she will not be able to make it back this year for the Big Event, she said last year was one of the most memorable times involved with Dance Marathon.

Last year, she and Cassondra Boehmer went to the Big Event in support of Emma Boehmer, who was then a morale captain. All three sisters have been morale captains, and as a tradition they came back.

During the Big Event, all three got up to dance the traditional morale-captain dance.

“We were up there dancing and being able to be there with my sisters and being up on stage,” Mayer said. “Being able to experience it with my two sisters was one of my best memories.”

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