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For Better Tomorrows: Dance Marathon prepares for 27th Big Event

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Dance Marathon is Iowa State’s largest student-run philanthropic organization, dedicated to providing support to families and children receiving treatment at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. In 2023, the organization worked to raise over $160,000 in support of funding projects within the hospital.

Grace Estenson, a senior in industrial design, joined Dance Marathon during her freshman year and currently serves as the organization’s executive director.

“I grew up an Iowa Hawkeye fan, waving to the kids at the hospital down in Iowa City… I always thought it was so cool,” Estenson said. 

Estenson began her Dance Marathon seeking to get more involved in the community and served as the organization’s branding director over her first two years. During her sophomore year, Estenson’s brother was diagnosed with leukemia and began receiving treatment at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

“I really was able to see our organization from a different perspective and the impact it can have,” Estenson said.

The following year, Estenson applied to the management team and served as Dance Marathon’s external director before becoming the organization’s executive director.

Dance Marathon functions similarly to a non-profit, focusing on the support of the children and their families impacted by illnesses. Throughout the year the organization hosts several events such as Stacks for Stead, a pancake breakfast held in October and a recently introduced volleyball tournament.

While members of Dance Marathon work year-round to support the families involved, its biggest event, fittingly titled the Big Event, is held each year during the second week of February. The Big Event is a day-long event packed with entertainment, games, dancing and a final reveal of the total funds raised from the year. 

During the Big Event, families are invited to spend the day at the Memorial Union for a full day of fun. Activities include inflatables, team challenges and a “Kiddo Talent Show.”

“I think our biggest goal is to always make sure that families have a good day,” Estenson said. “I think someone last year really said it best, that we’re not a fundraising organization that happens to have people, we’re a people organization that happens to fundraise.”

Laura Brockhoff, a senior in event management, joined Dance Marathon her junior year and now serves as the events director. Brockhoff was blown away by her first Big Event, recalling it as her favorite memory as a part of the organization.

“It was amazing getting to hear all of the different families’ testimonies and seeing how we made a difference,” Brockhoff said. “Just getting to see it firsthand and having that cause connection… seeing how we truly did make an impact in people’s lives.”

The 2024 Big Event will take place from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. Feb. 10 in the Memorial Union. The theme for this year’s event is “For Better Tomorrows.”

“We’re challenging our community to help us make more tomorrows, whether that be more birthdays, graduations or miracles,” Clara Toot, a senior in public relations and public relations (PR) director for Dance Marathon said. “Our organization is dedicated to providing a sense of community, both on campus for our students and for the families that we’re able to bring together.”

Dance Marathon benefits not only the families involved but students as well, working to foster a community of leaders on Iowa State’s campus through various leadership and development opportunities. With over 20 positions on the executive team, students can gain valuable experience within their respective fields of study. 

“A lot of the leadership roles that we have supply students with very valuable knowledge that can directly impact them, whether it be major specific or just in general and shows them how an organization runs,” Toot said.

The organization offers a wide variety of positions ranging from miracle makers, who work to raise funds throughout the year, to a range of roles on the executive team.

“We’re always welcoming new members and love to get people involved,” Toot said. “It’s a great way to find your community at Iowa State and meet more people.”

Students can join the Dance Marathon team at any point throughout the year by reaching out to the executive team or by stopping in at a meeting. 

“Dance Marathon people are really the best,” Estenson said. “Beyond all of the fundraising and supporting we do, we’re all just students looking to enjoy our time at college and find our place on campus. We offer that to a lot of people and I think that’s pretty cool.” 

More information about this year’s Big Event on Feb. 10 will be posted via the organization’s social media accounts. Those interested in attending can register for the event by texting ISUDM24 to 51555.

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