Student wins $10,000 to benefit Dance Marathon


Photo:Kelsey Kremer/Iowa State D

Hannah Hebron, senior in elementary education and Austin Dobbels, junior in agricultural biochemistry take a break from dancing and play twister during Dance Marathon Saturday, Jan. 22 at the Great Hall, Memorial Union. Dance Marathon is the largest student run philanthropy on campus raising money for the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Miracle Network.

Frances Myers

Anyone who came to the Memorial Union on Saturday found it was flooded in teal.

All day and into the night the ISU Dance Marathon held its 14th-annual 15-hour fundraising event, called “Kickin’ it for the Kids”

This year’s event raised $264,000, which will go directly to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital through Children’s Miracle Network in order to help children with life-threatening illnesses, giving financial and emotional support to hundreds of families across Iowa.

Fundraising for Dance Marathon is done throughout the year. In order to attend the annual event members must raise at least $200 on their own accord. Small fundraising events are held throughout the year to help members reach their goal. Some members will find their own ways to raise money such as creating online donation pages or asking family and friends.

One ISU Dance Marathon member chose a slightly different way to raise some money. Tyler Stafford, senior in advertising, entered the Ford Focus Global Test Drive Contest in late December in an attempt to win $10,000.

Applicants for this contest were told to submit a short video that was no longer than two minutes in length explaining why they should be considered to be a test driver for the 2012 Ford Focus, how they would start something for a good cause with $10,000 and how they were uniquely qualified to create user-generated content based on activities during the program.

“It seemed easy enough,” Stafford said. “Make a video, get people to vote, potentially win $10,000. Even if my chances were not good, I figured I might as well throw my hat in.” 

Stafford has been active in Dance Marathon for four years. He participated his freshman year, was on the recruitment and morale committees his next two years and decided to take it easy this time, participating to end his senior year.

Dance Marathon is an organization Stafford is nothing short of passionate about.

“Anyone who has ever been to Dance Marathon knows how powerful the day of [the event] is. Very few organizations give you the opportunity to truly see how your money is affecting the lives of others. Dance Marathon does that, and to me that is very moving,” he said.

Stafford entered the contest about a week after it started in hopes of winning the prize money and using it to create an educational fund for ISU Dance Marathon.

“The educational fund could go to a lot of different things: scholarships to college for college-bound miracle children, tutors for the kids while in the hospital so they don’t get left behind or school supplies for the kids when they are out of the hospital,” Stafford said.

When he first entered the contest, Stafford had no high expectations of winning.

“To be totally honest I thought my chances were pretty slim, mostly because Ford was very specific that the votes and view count were just one factor in how they were going to pick who won,” Stafford said. “There were some problems with me choosing Dance Marathon from the get-go because it didn’t fall under one of the three categories that Ford wanted the charities to fall under — Education, Environment or Hunger. Because Dance Marathon didn’t fall under one of these three categories, I decided to tweak it and propose that the money would go to start an educational fund within Dance Marathon. It took a while for Ford to approve it, but after a few weeks of my video being up, they did.

“I first went to my YouTube fan base,” Stafford said. “I have over 18,000 subscribers on YouTube, and they are the best YouTube fans in the world. That helped a lot. I also then made a Facebook group to remind people that they could vote every day for the contest, and I would send out annoying spam through the group to give these daily reminders. It was well worth it.” 

Within a few days, Stafford’s video quickly became the most viewed and voted for video in the contest. After voting was cut off, Ford did phone interviews with the people who had the top videos.

“I had my interview, and they told me they would let us know on a specific date,” Stafford said. “That date came and went, and I thought that they just must have gone with someone else.”

The next day Stafford realized he was wrong.

“The next day I got a phone call though and heard the awesome news,” Stafford said. “When I got the news that I won I couldn’t control myself. I started running around screaming and calling everyone I knew. I probably looked psychotic. My mind sort of blanked out; it was more of a feeling of relief.”

“Tyler’s video received over a thousand more votes than the next highest video, and he was contacted for an interview,” said Kayla Hunefeld, senior in advertising and and director of public relations for Dance Marathon. “ISU Dance Marathon was also contacted at this time to make us aware that Tyler was a finalist in this competition. Ford chose Tyler’s video based on number of votes and his interview and awarded ISU Dance Marathon $10,000 to be used to create an educational fund.”

“Some of our miracle children have to spend weeks or months at a time in the University of Iowa Hospital during treatments, recovery periods, for surgeries, etc. and may fall behind in their schoolwork so an educational fund would be really beneficial,” said Claire Dupey, senior in early childhood education and president of ISU Dance Marathon.

Stafford’s prize package included not only $10,000 to go toward creating an educational fund for Dance Marathon; he also won an all-expenses-paid trip to Spain for him and a friend to test drive the new Ford cars on a private test track.