James Year/Daily Iowan Archives
Pressed tightly together and patterned in multi-colored shirts, over 2,500 dancers will stand for twenty-four hours. Most will forgo sleep, caffeine, and sitting down as they literally stand in solidarity for their cause: fighting pediatric cancer.
Every year for the past twenty-six years, the University of Iowa Dance Marathon has hosted “The Big Event,” culminating their yearly commitment to helping children with cancer. In the 26-year history of the organization, it has raised over $26 million for the kids and continues to support children and their families.
The 24-hour Big Event will take place in the Iowa Memorial Union, beginning at 7 p.m. on Friday and ending at 7 p.m. Saturday. While standing is not required, it is strongly encouraged. Accommodations are provided to those who cannot stand the full 24 hours.
The Big Event itself will consist of live music, dancing, family speakers, a talent show, and a “kiddo graduation” where kids celebrate the milestone of five years cancer-free. At the ceremony, 15 Dance Marathon kids will be graduating.
“It’s a big milestone in terms of remission,” said Dance Marathon Event Director Cole Schuchard. “It’s a big event for them, because it means that their likelihood of relapsing is significantly less when they reach that five-year milestone.”
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In addition to the over 2,500 dancers, others in attendance will include over 300 leadership members, 600 volunteers, and 950 families.
Dancers and leadership members fundraise for 365 days to achieve their individual fundraising goals: $500 for the dancers and — new this year — $1,000 for the leadership members.
“Our dancers push fundraising through social media, reaching out to family and friends and things like that,” said Elizabeth Jackson, the public relations chair for Dance Marathon. “We [also] have our Day to DM, which is our 24-hour, or in this year, 26-hour, fundraising push day.”
This year’s Day to Dance Marathon, which took place Oct. 29, raised over $600,000 towards this year’s total fundraising.
Dance Marathon 25 raised over $2.9 million dollars last year alone — in its inaugural year, Dance Marathon raised $31,000.
“It’s not the number that matters; it’s the support we provide,” said Erin Glenn, Dance Marathon’s Public Relations Director. “Obviously, we want to be able to raise as much money as we can to support our families and give back to the hospital and programs we fund through the hospital, but our main goal is to provide as much smiles and joy and support for families that we possibly can.”
RELATED: UI Dance Marathon 26 launches ‘We Fight Together’ campaign
According to Schuchard, new developments for Dance Marathon 26 will include a more prominent student organization showcase that will take place on the main stage, a superhero-themed room for the families, a larger kiddo talent show, and two gongs. For every $50 raised by dancers and leadership members, they will have the opportunity to strike the gong.
The Big Event will also feature live performances from Natascha Myers, Nick Thomas, and Kazual.
“Dance Marathon 26 has been about laying the groundwork to keep moving forward,” said Glenn. “So, whether it be through new DEI initiatives, like bettering our accommodations room or different fundraising techniques, we’ve really started to think about laying a groundwork for the future: the next 25 years on campus.”
The event will conclude with the “Dancing in our Hearts” video to commemorate children who have passed away and the final tote board, which reveals the total amount raised by Dance Marathon.
“We talk a lot about finding your ‘why’ in the organization,” said Jackson. “We want everyone to find their own connection to it and find the reason they’re fighting along with us.”