There’s a reason they call it “the Big Event.” More than 2,000 University of Iowa students packed the Iowa Memorial Union Feb. 1-2 for a day-long dance marathon that raised money and morale for patients at UI Children’s Hospital.
The experience was punctuated by cheers and tears, the ever-present rallying cry “For the kids,” and heartfelt testimony from families about what UI Dance Marathon means to them.
But the pinnacle came at the very end, when participants discovered just how much their work had paid off: $1,529,650.19 raised this year.
The 2013 figure brings Dance Marathon’s 19-year haul to more than $12.7 million. It recently was named one of the nation’s top 10 college fundraisers.
Dance Marathon is the university’s single largest student organization, and students who join the cause gain more than a sense of giving back. Involvement with campus and community activities correlates with better academic performance, and organizations like Dance Marathon build valuable, marketable skills.
“These students are essentially running a million-dollar business,” says Courtney Blind, a Dance Marathon alumnus who today coordinates the program for the Division of Student Life’s Center for Student Involvement and Leadership.
Though it culminates in one big night, Dance Marathon is a year-round commitment with more than 200 students filling executive and committee roles.
“They organize fund-raising, secure corporate sponsorships, arrange family activities, and volunteer at the hospital,” Blind says. “They learn how to communicate, negotiate, and handle stress, and by the end they’ve become a well-oiled machine.”
Their dedication is leaving a lasting mark on the UI campus. In 2011, Dance Marathon committed $5 million over 10 years to help construct a new UI Children’s Hospital, slated for completion in 2015.