Until Saturday, March 5, I had been fundraising for UNI’s Dance Marathon and receiving notifications in the Team #26 Facebook message, but I did not know much about the organization. I was excited for the Big Event, but being that this year was my first year participating, I had no idea what to expect.
Honestly, it was one of the most fun days I have had in a while, and not just because of the dancing and activities. One of the coolest parts was that every person involved was there because they believe in a cause and want to make a difference in the lives of children who suffer from life-threatening illnesses. That takes dedication and motivation, and I’m so proud to be at a university where so many people are willing to spend twelve hours on their feet to support a cause like Children’s Miracle Network.
This year, #305on305 ($305,000.00 on 3/05/2016) was the goal, and UNI raised $370,248.05. I was certainly hopeful for $305,000, but to get $65,000 more than expected was incredible.
Since having time to reflect on my experience, I wanted to learn more about the organization and about childhood illnesses.
According to Dancemarathon.com,”Students at one university founded Dance Marathon in the memory of Ryan White, a fellow student. The program now spans the entire country, benefiting hundreds of hospitals and countless kids.”
Universities and high schools across the United States participate in 12-40-hour-long events to raise money that goes to their local Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals. Here in Iowa, the CMN Hospital is located in Iowa City within the University of Iowa campus, and they are currently constructing a brand new building. UNI’s fundraising goes toward research, education, equipment and enhancements at the U of I Hospital.
Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals is a non-profit organization, and they raise funds for more that 170 children’s hospitals. These hospitals treat over 17 million children each year, as well as provide $2.5 billion in charity care each year. According to their website, they “are the only national children’s charity committed to having 100% of the funds raised stay local to support local kids.” This is important, because a lot of people are more willing to donate if they know where their money is going, and it is so much easier to know that information when the organization is local.
Here at UNI, Dance Marathon is the largest student organization on campus. Their mission statement says, “The University of Northern Iowa Dance Marathon strives to provide hope and comfort for families with children facing life threatening illnesses by raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital’s and hosting events that heighten student and community awareness.”
In the months leading up to the Big Event there were many fundraising opportunities not only through the families of UNI students, but through the community as well. Several local restaurants such as Texas Roadhouse, Buffalo Wild Wings, Coldstone, and Panera Bread donated percentages of their profits on certain days toward Dance Marathon. Overall, there is a lot of support for this organization both on and off campus.
In recent years, I’ve gone on several mission trips that have shown me a different side of life that I do not see, typically. So many people live with difficult circumstances, and I get so caught up in my own life that I forget how lucky I am. But before participating in Dance Marathon, I had not really seen how children are affected by life-threatening illnesses. I know it isn’t pretty, and that it is extremely difficult for the child and his or her family, and I try to forget about that, because it is so hard to think about. But getting to see those kids having a blast and forgetting about their troubles was very humbling. Kids just want to have fun, and when they’re sick, that becomes a lot less accessible at times. Dance Marathon gives them the opportunity to simply be kids again, and forget their illnesses, at least for a little while. I can honestly say that these kids are my heroes.
I am so grateful to have had the chance to fundraise and participate in this event. I’m already looking forward to next year’s Dance Marathon!
“We dance for the chance ’cause there is no better way. UNI DM is FTK!”