Dancing for a Cause

DM Reveal Picture

Throughout football season, fans saw many celebrations following a big play, interception, or touchdown. Some of the most entertaining celebrations are dances, with Ickey Woods' ‘Ickey Shuffle’ and Deion Sanders’ ‘Prime Time’ being iconic examples of touchdown dances on the gridiron. 

Football celebratory dances last seconds. Can you imagine shuffling or strutting for 24 hours? 

University of Iowa students don’t imagine it, they do it. 

Each February, UI students dance for 24 hours to raise money in support of UIHC pediatric oncology and bone marrow transplant patients and their families. The Big Event requires dancers to be on their feet and forgo sleep and caffeine to honor and provide emotional support for those who endure longer and more difficult circumstances. Since its inception in 1995, UI Dance Marathon’s (UIDM) impact is astounding with over $30 million raised for the kids and over 1,000 families supported. 

In addition to a growing number of dancers, UISRM majors, minors, club members, and practicum participants have and are currently serving in positions such as Sponsorship Director, Morale Captain, Operations Committee Member, and Family Ambassador. Their dedication to the children and families that UIDM supports is evidence to their maturity and understanding of what being a Hawkeye and serving others is all about. Below are brief descriptions from UISRM students regarding each of the positions mentioned above and the role’s importance to UIDM.

Ryan Zydek and Rena RoosSponsorship Director: As is the case in sport business, local and national sponsors are important contributors to an organization and its mission. For UIDM, sponsorship is the second-largest financial contributor to its mission. However, UIDM sponsors are also integral in providing exposure to the Big Event, its impact, and the kiddos and families who are supported by and benefit from UIDM. The UIDM Sponsorship Committee works to identify and secure additional sponsors, but also celebrate those who have overcome adversity and who support them. (section contributor: Matt Kolarczyk, UISRM BS 2020)

Morale Captain: Throughout the Big Event, dancers must stay awake, be on their feet, and refrain from consuming caffeine for 24 hours. This is an extremely tall order. However, UIDM Morale Captains, in partnership with Lime Captains, work to uplift the spirits and energy of dancers we’re partnered with. We monitor their progress in fundraising, support sharing of content on social media, and obviously motivate and cheer on our team during the Big Event. In addition, Morale Captains communicate with kiddos and their families who are supported by UIDM and are now cancer free. (section contributor: Ryan Zydek, UISRM Major pictured left)

Operations Committee Member: The UIDM Operations Committee works collaboratively to execute all operations and logistics for the Big Event and other activities throughout the year. Specifically, the committee plans and coordinates all decorations for the Big Event as well as assists with sustainability efforts within UIDM. The UIDM Operations Committee's goal is to deliver a “Disney-like" experience for everyone at all UIDM events. (section contributor: Rena Roos, UISRM Minor pictured left)

Family Representative: The children and families UIDM supports endure a lot. UIDM Family Representatives are devoted to reaching out to a UIDM-supported family every few weeks to encourage them in their difficult journey with cancer. With communication, representatives often share coloring pages based on an upcoming holiday or a craft that the representative made. These actions are often motivating and heartwarming for the representative to create and share with their UIDM family. (section contributor: Jenae Marshall, UISRM Minor) 

As is true with many of our lives, the 2021 Big Event felt the effects of the pandemic. Typically, the event takes place in early February at the Iowa Memorial Union. However, Dance Marathon 27 instead took place February 26-27, 2021 and was a virtual dance party and celebration of the kiddos and their families. While the Big Event did take place, participation and fundraising ended up lower than UIDM organizers had hoped. 

With this in mind, the UISRM program hopes that you will take a minute to learn about the current dancers who participated in the 2021 Big Event through their UIDM profiles and, if you feel moved, support and celebrate them: not for a touchdown or interception, but for the kids. 

Amy Knoebl  Jarrett Knepper  Michael Oleson  Lily Honnold 
Rena Roos  Kaitlyn Faber  Ryan Zydek  Jenae Marshall 
Brayden Boche Ali Harms  Abigail Wisecup   


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