The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Dance Marathon Quilts and Pillowcases: Survivors honored and kids remembered

Hundreds of pillowcases line the IMU walls. Two quilts honor kids who are “dancing in our hearts.”
Quilts are seen hanging from the balcony in the ballroom during Dance Marathon 24 at the Iowa Memorial Union on Friday, Jan. 28, 2018. Dance Marathon raises money for pediatric cancer research. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

More than 900 pillowcases line the walls of the IMU ballroom for each Dance Marathon kid. Each pillowcase was designed and decorated by family representatives who remain in contact with the family throughout the year.

Two quilts draped over the balcony of the main lounge embroidered with 220 names of kids who have passed away in the past 24 years Dance Marathon has been in existence. They are the kids who are “dancing in our hearts.”

Trevor White is one of those names.

Susie James and her family have been coming to Dance Marathon for 14 years. Her son, Trevor, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 2003 and passed away two years later in 2005. The family has continued to participate in Dance Marathon ever since.

Susie’s daughter, Luna, hugged her mom’s legs, her pink dyed highlights standing out against her bleach-blonde hair.

“I don’t understand why you gotta see him and I didn’t,” Luna, age 6, said to her mom. Her mom picked her up and Luna pointed to a button on her mom’s shirt of a smiling 4-year-old.

“That’s him,” she said.

Susie said Luna always talks about Trevor. One of the reasons they keep coming back is because they want to give back to an organization that gave so much to their family.

“All the volunteers here help you through the whole journey,” Susie said. “Everything they do for the children, it’s all about them.”

Jaclyn Gessner, age 12, has had eight pillowcases since she was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma when she was three and half years old. Now she returns to Dance Marathon as someone who is over five years cancer free.

Her favorite pillowcase, she said, was one that illustrated all her favorite interests, like volleyball, basketball, horses, and reading.

Although her right eye was replaced with a glass prosthetic after her bout with cancer, she still actively participates in volleyball and basketball. In fact, after a long night of dancing, she’ll play in a basketball game tomorrow morning.

Every year she likes to guess what’s on her next pillowcase.

“I really like animals, so my next one will probably be something with that,” Jaclyn said.

Sarah Brokus became a group leader this year after participating as a dancer for two years. She said the pillowcase made for her kid involved all of her favorite interests.

Her main priority with everything she does with Dance Marathon, she said, is to raise money to combat pediatric cancer and make the kids’ Dance Marathon experience the best possible.

“I’ve had several family members who have passed away from cancer, many of them children. I know the devastating impact cancer has had in my family, and I don’t want any other family to have to go through it – because it’s not fair,” Brokus said.


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About the Contributor
Sarah Watson
Sarah Watson, Executive Editor


Email: [email protected] Twitter: @K_5mydearwatson Sarah Watson is the executive editor at The Daily Iowan. She's in her fourth year at the University of Iowa, studying journalism and political science. Previously, she coordinated election and political coverage as a three-semester politics editor, and has reported on student government and the statehouse. Last spring, she stepped into the role of the DI's managing news editor. She's an advocate for transparent government and is committed to making journalism work better for people of all identities. She also thinks pineapple on pizza is a good idea. Email her for a discussion.