With Relay for Life just around the corner here in Jones County, I have begun to think back on my ongoing history with cancer and its impact on my life.
This year while attending the University of Iowa, I got the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream. I got to dance for 24 hours straight, without sitting down. I got to stand in a ballroom filled with 2,000 other sweaty college students, all laughing and crying simultaneously every minute of every hour.
Of course you now probably think I’m crazy for wanting to do this since the age of 10, and maybe you’re right. But that 24 hours is known as Dance Marathon and no one does it better than the University of Iowa.
Dance Marathon is an organization that has spread across the country and gets college students involved in the fight against pediatric cancer. Of course Hawkeyes have no better inspiration than the adorable faces of the kids right next door at the UI Children’s Hospital. All year long, students raise money to be apart of this event. There is a $400 donation needed just to be a dancer. But oh is it worth it.
This year on Feb. 1, 2,000 dancers gathered to begin what we in DM call the “Big Event.” This would be DM19, the 19th year the University of Iowa has put on this event which is almost entirely student organized.
So from 7 p.m. that evening to 7 p.m. the following, we danced FTK which means “For the Kids.” It is a line that constantly keeps us going throughout the night when the initial hours of excitement and energy have worn off. Because if these young children can fight cancer, then the least we can do is stay on our feet for a day. It will never compare to their battles.
The executive committee reminds us of this by bringing in family speakers, whose children have or are battling. Some have lost their children to the fight, others have beat it and graduate from Dance Marathon before our eyes after being in remission for five years. And I can tell you that you will never meet such amazing kids. We get to dance and sing with them and enjoy watching them just be kids.
Even the kids who can’t leave the hospital get a visit from a select group of students, which includes Herky and his spirit squad and we Skype with them to show the hundreds of faces supporting them. Although you can’t feel your feet by this time, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters are the adorable little faces that are before you and the remembrance of those who are no longer with us.
To say that DM19 was the greatest 24 hours of my life is an understatement. It was more than that even. And the thing is, is that you can’t understand it until you experience it yourself. Until you get the chance to dance on the stage, looking out on the sea of lime green before you, you can’t really feel what a difference you are making.
Even when the final bell sounded and the entire mass sat down with a harmonious sigh of relief, as soon as we saw the boards start to turn and slowly realized that we had managed to raise $1.53 million dollars, everyone was on their feet again. Tears streamed down my face as I hugged the stranger next to me, screaming at the top of my lungs for what I had just been a part of, once again blowing last year’s total out of the water.
And that is what Dance Marathon will continue to do. So if you ever see any kid my age in a lime green t-shirt or any colorful t-shirt talking about some dance and asking for a donation, take a second to stop and think what you could be a part of. Because we don’t just dance, “we dance for life.”