My journey with Dance Marathon started my freshmen year when I took the bold move to apply for the morale captain position. Not only was this one of my best decisions I have ever made, it was a decision that has impacted my life forever. I wanted to be more involved on campus and I wanted to join an organization that made a difference in other people's lives. BINGO! Dance Marathon was the perfect fit and I haven’t looked back since. I learned quickly just how awesome Dance Marathon was and my favorite part was getting to meet so many families. At my first Big Event, I had the opportunity to hang out with my miracle kiddo, Ellyonna Johnson. Spending time with her and seeing her have so much fun made me realize that Dance Marathon is so much more than just raising money. It is about the relationships we build with these kids and their families to show them they are not alone in their fight.
I also had the pleasure of building a strong connection with Meara O’Brien and her family during my sophomore year. Meara is a fellow swimmer and lived next to my swim coach so it was an instant connection. Since then, they have grown into my second family here in Cedar Falls! I continue to dance so kids like Meara can live out their passions and dreams. This family showed me that not only have I been able to make a positive impact on miracle families lives but the families and the kids truly impact my life as well.
During the Big Event my sophomore year, I had the privilege of hearing Austin Schroeder’s story on stage and I was able to meet Oliver Palmer’s family. These boys are two of the nine Dancing in Our Heart kiddos UNI Dance Marathon supports. While talking with these families, I heard the love, the sadness, the heartbreak, and the grief that these parents experience everyday without their child. Moms, dads, brothers, and sisters had to say goodbye to their son and to their brother. These kids will never grow up and experience life, go to college, get married, or have kids of their own. They were robbed of a life because of a 6 letter word called cancer. That is why I dance. Because no family should ever have to bury their own child. After hearing Austin's and Ollie's story, and so many others, I am determined to do everything in my power to honor them, keep fighting for them and most importantly, remember them. They deserve to be here on this earth.
UNI Dance Marathon supports 68 families from the Cedar Valley. While every family has their own special and inspiring story, 9 of those families no longer have their child with them on earth. When they walk through the doors to the Big Event on February 29th, they are missing a family member. I do everything that I do for these 9 families. And with the recent passing of Will Reinart, a UNI Dance Marathon kiddo who graduated from the organization last year, it brings to life the harsh reality that we need to keep fighting because kids are dying everyday from this terrible disease.
When you walk into the union on February 29th, I challenge you to take a step back and remember your why. Why are you here, standing on your feet for 12 hours? Why are you fundraising? Why are you a part of UNI Dance Marathon? I will walk in those doors one last time and will be dancing for Austin Schroeder, Camryn Storbeck, Cheyenne Keeling, Dashiell Codd, Ellie Sitzmann, Jackson Gipe, Oliver Palmer, Quinn Boylston, Sanders Moffit, and Will Reinart who lost their life way too soon.