Dance Marathon 24
The University of Iowa Dance Marathon’s 24th year was defined by embracing challenges, pushing limits, and fostering innovation. From Dancers to Minis, Leadership team members to sponsors, hospital staff to alumni, our Dance Marathon community was stronger than ever. The united efforts of Dance Marathon 24 transcended the college campus and impacted hundreds of families. While Kinnick Stadium waved to our heroes on game day, the students went to work, spreading our lime across the country. The year was capped off with one of the most unforgettable reveals at the annual Big Event - 24 hours long, 24 years strong.
It was 4:00 PM on Saturday, February 3rd, when we began to count all the donations from the year to prepare for the big reveal. We had merchandise sales, sponsorship donations, Mini Dance Marathons donations, and our Dancer fundraising to name a few. While our accountant punched away at the calculator, we stared impatiently at him, waiting to hear the number. After he finished adding it all up, he gasped. $2,996,000. With three hours left in our Big Event, we were just $4,000 short of raising $3 million for the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital. The Business Director, Dylan Ritchie, and I jumped up, immediately brainstorming ways to motivate the students to make one last push. In the room were some of our biggest supporters. They grabbed us, smiling with tears in their eyes, and said, “Just go have fun.” Three hours later, we saw the final number: $3,011,015.24 for the kids.
To become the second Miracle Network Dance Marathon in the nation to raise over $3 million was a testament to the 2,943 student participants and their constant dedication to the cause. Among other major successes, the student leadership team raised over $600,000, and in one day, students raised over $400,000 during the third annual fundraising push day, “Day to DM.” Even as full-time students with part time jobs, we were energized and showed up to make a difference. You could see it on national television when Dance Marathon students were featured on Big Ten Network or when over 250 students ran through the streets of Chicago during the Chicago Marathon. The students embodied one generation fighting for the next.
A really special and unique feature of UIDM is our ability to decide how the funds we raise are allocated. Every year, Dance Marathon funds dozens of programs that provide direct family support. The support includes covering insurance co-pays, providing necessary medical equipment, and sibling support groups. Every once in awhile, the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital makes a special, large request. During DM 24, the hospital made two large requests. First, students donated over $600,000 to cover a portion of the costs for a state-of-the-art MRI machine. Then, students approved a two year, $2 million gift to establish the UI Dance Marathon Chair in Pediatric Oncology, Clinical and Translational Research, the first student-funded chair at the University. Once again, students made history.
Although our mission was to provide financial and emotional support to the children and their families, we tried to find other ways to make a difference. One area DM 24 was able to make a significant impact was in sustainability. For the first time, the Big Event was carbon-neutral. By planting trees across campus, the Big Event’s carbon emissions were offset. Additionally, we were able to divert over 50% of the waste from the Big Event by recycling and composting and made sustainable purchases by choosing different vendors for the over 4,000 Big Event T-shirts.
But, at the end of the day, everything we did was for the kids. At our eight family events throughout the year, we provided a day of fun for hundreds of families and saw record family attendance. For our families whose children are forever dancing in our hearts, we memorialized their children at the 2nd annual DIH walk. And for the first time ever, our students got to enter the brand new UI Dance Marathon Pediatric Cancer Center, contributing thousands of volunteer hours and interacting with the kiddos and their families.
Dance Marathon 24 was truly a special year. Once again, we saw the maturation of this student-led organization, proving it is much more than a dance party. Although the students make up the identity of the participants, we could not have done anything without our full-time student advisors, Tracey Pritchard and Brock Cavett. They gave up weekends, stayed late, and came in early to provide the essential guidance to our students. Brock, a former UIDM leadership member, joined the team late in the year, bringing valuable experience and insight. Tracey was recognized at the Hawkeye Awards with the Outstanding Student Organization Advisor Award for her work during DM 24. We are forever grateful for their dedication to the cause.
Although DM 24 has come and gone, we will never forget the memories and celebrations. To sum up the special year, I’ll leave you with the vision statement that guided us every day.
Dance Marathon 24 Vision Statement
“With open arms and empathetic hearts, we will provide endless hope and support to our kiddos and families through confidence in our passion that will embrace challenges, consistently push limits, and foster innovation. Our color alone will give the kids a reason to smile as we create new reasons to celebrate the united efforts of Dance Marathon 24.”
-Alex Linden, Dance Marathon 24 Executive Director