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A lot comes to mind as I begin to think about Dance Marathon. My mind is flooded with the color orange, excitement, and a handful of emotional recollections. But, amidst all of these thoughts, one thing stands out more than the others -- Dance Marathon is a family. In my first year at UNI, I quickly learned about UNI Dance Marathon, which was at the time, in its inaugural year. I registered to attend the event with a friend, bedazzled a fanny pack (what else?!) and from that moment, I watched a spark that would ignite our entire campus for the best cause in the world -- FOR THE KIDS. One of the many ways I see family throughout Dance Marathon is in the unification of the Executive Team, our committee members, and the entire organization. Especially after attending the first Big Event, I felt (and still feel) an inexplicable encouragement whenever I saw someone wearing a UNI Dance Marathon t-shirt, sharing pictures from DM events, or talking about DM. The DM buzz has allowed opportunities for conversation and unity, which has developed into life-long friendships. There is something so special about students and community members who give up the little free time and resources they may have, to be a part of something bigger than themselves; to give back. The selflessness and unification I see, although still seemingly inexplicable in my mind, can perhaps be best summarized by the word family. The most literal way I see family throughout Dance Marathon is in the support and excitement among my own family. In my first few years at UNI, as I began to fundraise for the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital through DM, it was not lost on my family back home that I was once a kiddo in that very hospital. The deep connection to the hospital, along with the positive experiences we had there, made it easy for my family to jump on the FTK train. In the last two years, as I have served on the Executive Team, my family is quick to recognize the color orange, note a Children’s Miracle Network corporate sponsor, and in general, provide the patient, listening ears I need when I begin to express my excited, often unorganized thoughts and emotions about my UNI Dance Marathon Family. Finally, I see a family in the community that surrounds Miracle Families. As Director of Family Relations, I get to help our entire organization walk alongside the families which we support. Hearing stories of the excitement kiddos have to attend our events, the happiness provided by the items and programs we have funded at the hospital, and the overall appreciation the families have is always humbling. The Miracle Families have been able to form friendships with morale captains, committee members, and dancers. Though often indescribable, the connections and community provided throughout UNI Dance Marathon add up to a loving, supportive family. No matter who you are, where you come from, or what your story may be, there is a place for you in our UNI Dance Marathon family. Come join not only an international movement, but something much more, a life changing family.

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