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At 22 years old, there are a lot of things I’m proud of in my life. I’m proud of the education that I’ve received and the work I’ve put in to it. I’m proud of my friends from high school and college and all they’ve accomplished. I’m proud of my sister for being almost 25 and single-handedly changing the world. Mostly, I’m proud of UNI Dance Marathon and the students who embody this organization. I’m proud to have been part of UNI Dance Marathon for so long, not because of the things I’ve done within the organization, but for how it’s shaped my life, thousands of college students lives, and the lives of many children across the world. ​5 things I’ve learned from my 5 years of UNI Dance Marathon:

1. There’s NO reason to be scared of the future ​The transition from high school to college was not an easy one for me. I went from being heavily involved with my school, church, friends and family to feeling like I had nothing and knew no one. Calls to my mom begging to come home were frequent, and my google searches were filled with colleges closer to home. I was scared of the future. Jumping forward to my senior year at the University of Northern Iowa; I am no longer calling my mom asking to come home, but instead talking about future plans. I am still scared of the future. Dance Marathon kiddos have no idea what their future holds but embrace each day with optimism. If they can forge ahead instead of worrying about what will come, so can we.

2. Dance Marathon Miracle Kiddos are HEROES for so many reasons ​We often talk about why Dance Marathon kiddos are our heroes, usually with the mention that they are battling a life-threatening illness. I’d like to not only call them a hero for battling their illnesses, but for how they are battling whatever diagnosis may be in their medical file. These kiddos don’t complain when they receive numerous finger pricks, scans, blood draws, or any other treatment. Instead, they fight with a smile on their face. It may not always be easy, but they always put their best foot forward. Now that is admirable.

3. It’s important to keep things in perspective Going back to my freshmen year of college, I was focused on myself. I wasn’t entirely selfish, but I focused on “my world” and didn’t look beyond that. As I got involved with UNI Dance Marathon, my eyes began to open to the world around me. I realized that my perspective has shifted. I’m sure many college kids can relate to dreading attending class when they don’t feel well, often tweeting about how the wish their mom was there to take care of them, or sending “SOS” text messages to family chats. There was one day my sophomore year when I was feeling particularly crummy, in a self-loathing pity because I had a slight temperature and wanted to lay in bed for the day. I realized how minuscule my complaint was compared to what our miracle kiddos endure every day (and they don’t complain!) 4. We can cry about it, or we can DANCE about it Kid President knocked this one out of the park. I’ve had moments within Dance Marathon where the most appropriate thing to do seemed like crying and asking why these children were ridden with these illnesses. Instead, UNI Dance Marathon dances, and we dance hard. One of our miracle families that lost a child due to cancer reminds me how important it is to celebrate their child instead of mourn their child. Instead of focusing on the negative things in life, UNI Dance Marathon puts all our effort into making a positive impact. Instead of crying, Dance Marathon has taught me to obnoxiously get up and bust out my best moves. 5. It’s NOT about the money… it’s about the impact Our generation is driven by money and success, something that I struggled with when I first joined UNI Dance Marathon. My first year I was so focused on reaching my personal fundraising goal that I missed out on opportunities to interact and connect with miracle kiddos, their families, and my peers. I have quickly realized that while the money helps drive the mission and every dollar raised directly impacts the children at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, it’s about how to you make other people feel. Our goal is to provide emotional and monetary support to children and their families battling life threatening illnesses. Our goal is to enrich the lives of those who have fought a battle, and support them while they do so. Visiting a child in the hospital, celebrating an end to chemo treatment, or overcoming relapses are priceless. No matter the amount we fundraise year after year, the most important aspect of UNI Dance Marathon is the children and their families.

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