Year: 2023
Amount Raised: $1,174,008.29

dance marathon 29 t-shirt

In Dance Marathon's 29th year we were committed to doing more than we ever have before. We kicked off our year by introducing our summer campaign, Spark Your Passion. This served as a call to action of our leadership, dancers, and community members to remember why they joined Dance Marathon, what this cause means to them, and why they keep coming back. While many of our members find that their spark comes from meeting one of our DM families or volunteering up on Level 11, many more find their why comes from the friendships and communities they make with the individuals they meet within our organization. This year we wanted to foster that connection building with our families, leadership members, and dancers alike. While we didn't know what the future would hold for UIDM after coming off 2 virtual years, but our members were committed to our mission regardless.

UIDM has always had a tradition of excellence, and Dance Marathon 29 was no exception. Members of our executive team traveled to Atlanta over the summer to present on best practices to over 300 dance marathon programs across the nation. These presentations included including creating a vision statement, bettering the dancer experience through events, and being one of the pioneering programs implementing DEI initiatives and a DEI committee on our leadership team. We were also thrilled to come home with the virtual programming award of the year after having to switch to an online format of a Big Event less than a month before the 24-hour marathon.

As we began our recruitment events in the fall, we introduced 2 new events during OnIowa! week allowing us to reach more students than ever before and bring back the strong presence of UIDM on the University campus. We also introduced our year-long campaign, Ignite The Light. This served as a continuation of our summer campaign as we now challenged our members and partners to continue to let their passion for UIDM grow and spread that love all around the community. The Light, and flame, as shown in our campaign branding was meant to excite, fuel, and energize all for this incredible year to come while also paying tribute to the candle that remains lit during the 24-hour Big Event to remember the 1,200+ kiddos who have passed away due to pediatric cancer.

This campaign theme held strong throughout the year as we started to get back to a new type of normal in dance marathon. We remained committed to removing the barriers that prevented people from joining DM by cutting our registration fees and fundraising minimums in half to $25 and $250. The allowed us to reach populations on campus like never before. Additionally, we were excited and energized to be back volunteering on Level 11 and getting to interact with some of our families undergoing active treatment. We also introduced a brand-new event, the Dance Marathon formal, which proved to be a great success and a new fundraising tool. We added new family events across the state of Iowa to increase access for some of our families who live further away from Iowa City and re-energized our mini programs in the surrounding areas.

This year we were honored to announce our next big gift to UI Stead Family Children's Hospital, a $1.5 Million Endowed Professorship. In years past, UIDM has made several large gifts to Stead including funding a clinical research lab and naming Level 11 the UI Dance Marathon cancer center. All of these gifts have served to support the families and children receiving treatment but also supporting the healthcare faculty and staff who directly change the lives of these kiddos. With guidance from the hospital, we learned the next need was people. Ultimately, people treat patients and people will eventually find the cure to cancer so funding this professorship and creating a new faculty position on Level 11 would just strengthen the hospital's ability to serve these families and ultimately work to a cure for pediatric cancer. We were thrilled to announce this gift on Day to DM, our annual fundraising push day where we were able to raise $226,152.29 in just 24 hours!

To cap this year off, we were excited to celebrate all of our efforts with the 24-hour Big Event back fully in-person for the first time in 3 years. Having been online for the past few years, the anticipation of an in-person Big Event was growing exponentially and DM29 rose to the challenge. With the incredible help of DMAG, UICA, and University staff, we were able to put on an incredible Big Event to celebrate raising over $1.1 million.

Dance Marathon 29 was a pivotal year and will forever hold a special place in my heart. I truly feel humbled and honored to have led such an incredible group of individuals fighting for something much larger than themselves. However, there is still much work to do, and I have no doubt that this next generation of leaders will continue to provide love, compassion, and support to the families and kiddos who need it the most.

- Raginya Handoo, Dance Marathon 29 Executive Director