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Does the idea of Dance Marathon intimidate you? Does it scare you when people ask, “Do you want to be a part of something bigger than yourself”? How about confuse you? Dance Marathon did all of those things to me upon first hearing about it. Before college, I had never once heard the term “Dance Marathon”. Growing up in high school I had been a part of organizations like Relay for Life. I knew what the cause was and what we were raising money for, but I never had a true connection to it. I had never known someone with cancer nor had I ever had to experience the loss of someone close to me to illness. Fast forward now to my freshman year of college, I was asked by one of my friends to attend a committee meeting with her for Dance Marathon. I, wanting to get involved on campus, figured why not just attend one meeting. I had never heard of Dance Marathon but I figured if I didn’t like it then I would just choose to not attend anymore. As the semester went on I found myself sticking around and choosing to become a member of the Recruitment Committee for Dance Marathon. By that time I had learned Dance Marathon’s mission and what the money raised was going towards. But, like Relay, I didn’t have a true connection to the organization. I knew it was a good cause and that I wanted to become more involved in it. I had listened to the mantras of the Co-Directors at meetings saying “you’re a part of something bigger than yourself” and “you’re changing lives”. Obviously I knew the money was going to make a big impact on families, but I didn’t know these families or see these results so it was hard for me to truly believe and buy into these phrases. But, that all changed. I decided, partly through my decision and partly through coercion from a close friend, to become more of a presence in Dance Marathon and to get more involved. I chose to be a Morale Captain my sophomore year of college. It was then that my idea of Dance Marathon began to change. Through this new position, I was learning about the families Dance Marathon helped. I was given the opportunity to tour the Iowa City Children’s Miracle Network Hospital for the first time ever. Learning about where the money raised went was one thing, but physically seeing the results was amazing. In my time in Dance Marathon I have taken the time to get to know families on a personal level. I have taken the time to get to know the kids on a personal level. I have listened first hand from parents the trials and tribulations they have had to overcome in order to make sure that their child gets to live another day, week, month, and year. I have heard stories from families that break my heart, stories I wish no family or kid ever had to endure. Though many stories are sad and sometimes hard to hear, I have heard many happy stories. I have gotten to know families who can now say that their kid is cancer free or those who can say that though born premature, their kid is fully functioning in life. Many of these families will say that they would not be where they are, they would not have the support that they do, without Dance Marathon to thank. In all honesty, I think there are two moments I can contribute to my understanding now of the phrase “be a part of something bigger than yourself”. The first one being, this summer when I attended Dance Marathon Leadership Conference. I met students from all over the nation, over 300 colleges, gather in one area to share their love of changing lives. I met college students who would give up countless weekends, hundreds of dollars of their own, hours of their time, and sacrifice other activities to put in the effort that they do for Dance Marathon. These are college students we are talking about here! These college students realized that Dance Marathon was changing lives, but also changing the future. The work that we all chose to do, the effort put forth, was a selfless act because we never did this for ourselves. Everything we put into this organization was in the effort of changing another human being’s life, even if it was by chance it was just one human being. The second moment I can attribute to my understanding is the moment I looked out to the crowd on the night of our fourth year of Dance Marathon when it was announce that we raised $278,135.04 blowing our goal out of the water. I saw a thousand UNI students, students I walked by every single day on my way to class, hugging one another and sobbing. These students had banded together to not just top records or surpass our goal, but to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to change lives. These students gave money whether it be money from family, money from friends, their “going out” money, their personal money, or whatever to this organization because they knew how amazing this organization was. They knew that Dance Marathon was, and will always, be one generation fighting for the next. So my challenge to you is, don’t be like me. Don’t wait to get involved in Dance Marathon. I’m not talking about joining a committee or coming to the Big Event. Those are all great things of course, but what I’m talking about is really learning why this organization is so life changing. Get to know the families, get to know the kids. Hear their stories, both good and bad, of how these families have been affected by something as simple as some college students banding together to hold one heck of a dance party. It may scare you or intimidate you, but that is okay! We all go through things that are scary to us! Challenge yourself to really learn why members of Dance Marathon say “be a part of something bigger than yourself”.

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