Dance Marathon is a celebration. Students from many walks of life gather for one single purpose that is so much larger than themselves. We gather for 12 hours of dancing and games. The whole event is built around joy and laughter. All except for one room. This room is silent, though you hear a sniffle occasionally. Pictures of children are laid out all around. You approach the first picture and begin to read. All of the doctor visits, chemo treatments, medications, all of the triumphs, and all of the struggles briefly described on a single piece of paper. The most beautiful moments and the darkest day of a parent's life is staring you in the face. This is the Dancing In Our Hearts room. For me, this is where my Dance Marathon story begins.
In 2014, I met some of the greatest people in my life and I made memories that I will always hold close to my heart. This is the year that the University of Northern Iowa Dance Marathon change my life forever. I still remember the moment the signs were moved and the number $176,498.03 stood in front of us. But in that moment, I couldn’t shake the thoughts of the Dancing In Our Hearts room. But why? Why out of all things happening that day, did that stick out? At the time I didn’t understand, but looking back, I think I have an explanation:
Childhood illness is uncomfortable to talk about. Death, even more so. Those are two topics that many people scramble to avoid when it comes up in conversation. We, as a society, do not like to talk about those two things. But Dance Marathon is the petri dish for that conversation. The Dancing In Our Hearts room forces us to confront the uncomfortable. Thousands of children every year lose their battle and leave us far too soon. However, their lives were not lost in vain. Because of the uncomfortable conversations Dance Marathon forces us to have, we are compelled to share their story. The kiddos live on through all of us. We have the chance to use their stories and change the future for all of the kiddos who continue to battle every day. That’s so incredible to me.