It is 10am on February 4th, 2017; you are more than half way through the Big Event. Your feet hurt, and you are exhausted. A family speaker is welcomed to the stage and shares their incredible story. You feel a rush of emotion; goosebumps flood your skin, and along comes another wave of motivation. You are captivated by the magic of Dance Marathon. This is what will keep you dancing for the kids.

Dance Marathon started at Penn State University in the 1970’s. Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) wanted to expand their event to other universities across the nation with the help of their representatives. Through their respective CMN representative’s volunteer efforts, the University of Iowa, University of Florida, and Bowling Green were chosen to pilot the program.

The very first Dance Marathon was mostly, if not completely, Greek life. At the time, dancers were required to sign up in twos, which meant each house had criteria to meet, so Sororities and Fraternities were paired. DM1 had about 180 dancers; a success, considering the event was new. At the end of DM1’s 36 hours, the first tote board read: $31,000!

While Dance Marathon started as a Greek event, the founding students knew they needed to expand the event across campus. In an effort to be inclusive, they rebranded DM as a Student Organization, hoping this would encourage students outside of Greek life to participate, thus growing the organization and spreading the mission.

Each year Dance Marathon reaches new audiences from all different backgrounds both on Iowa’s campus and throughout the nation. The beginnings of Iowa’s Dance Marathon were small. The founding executive members note that they never imagined that the organization would grow to be what it is today. Many things have changed since its inception, but two things have always stayed the same: the mission and the ability of Dance Marathon’s magic to inspire its participants to new heights.


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