By: Brianna Sudrla
I don’t think it’s important to know why I joined Dance Marathon, at least not as much as it is to know why I have stayed involved with Dance Marathon. I am sure you have heard, the Big Event is a rollercoaster of happiness, sadness, laughter, tears, exhaustion, and energy. It’s by far the best roller coater I have been on—and I have been on A LOT of rollercoasters. I am going to give you a list of the five memories that stick out the most to me about Dance Marathon, and I hope that they will inspire and encourage you to stay involved with the organization during your time at Iowa.
1. DM 17: my first Dance Marathon. When they read the names of every kiddo whose name is written on the quilt that hangs in the back of the ballroom I remember thinking to myself, “These are children who have lost their battle just at UIHC? There is no reason this many children should have their lives cut short because of cancer.” Throughout the whole 24 hours I looked back at the burning flame and I swear that it renewed my energy, and pushed me to keep dancing, to keep pushing forward, and to keep doing what I could for all the children and families who are in Dance Marathon.
2. DM 18 I was still a dancer, but I was absolutely blessed with the opportunity to go to the hospital for a Mini-Big Event during the Big Event. I watched as children danced, played, laughed, and had fun while tugging around machines and cords and foreign things I probably couldn’t pronounce, but that a 4-year-old could spit out. I knew at that moment that we WERE making a difference. Even if it was just for an hour, a minute, anything—just giving these children a reason to smile brought joy to me, and it encouraged me to fight for them.
3. Later, back at DM 18’s Big Event, the last family speaker shared their story. They played a video of their son, who recently lost his battle, singing a Rascal Flatts song. I do not like country music, but that was one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard. I believe that every single person in that ballroom felt something powerful. It’s an experience that is hard to put into words; I won’t even try.
4. DM 19 I was selected as a MCA and had the opportunity to walk with parents from the hospital around Kinnick. I remember a lot of the parents were nervous to leave their children, even if it was just for 30 minutes, but after some encouragement we had about four moms and dads that walked. During the walk one of the dads talked about how he had once been a student at the University of Iowa, and not that long ago. He said something to me that really made me appreciate what Dance Marathon does. He said that when he went to school here he had heard of Dance Marathon but never was motivated to get involved and didn’t really feel like he had the time. It wasn’t until his own child was diagnosed with cancer that he saw exactly what DM does, and now he has so much respect for us for all of the time, dedication, and passion we put into it.
5. At DM 19’s Big Event, I was a part of the Morale Captain in Training Program. WE taught a group of kids who were in DM Families a small portion of the Morale Dance that would later be performed on stage. I remember watching as a young boy, probably about 10, struggled to perfect every single move. He was so concentrated and whenever he would mess up he seemed discouraged. I talked with him a bit and helped him as much as I could. When he went on stage he lit up, and nailed the Morale Dance! Later in the event, I saw him walk on stage with some of his family members. It was then, after listening to their story that I realized he was an older brother of a kiddo who very recently had lost their battle. In that moment I saw what Dance Marathon does for everyone—not just the kids in the hospital, but their families too.
Not everyone who has been in Dance Marathon share the same memories, but I know that every single person has felt that burning flame within their soul to keep pushing forward and fight for these children, and I hope if you haven’t, you one day will.