University of Iowa vice president of medical affairs Jean Robillard stood on the stage in the Main Lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union and announced that the Iowa state Board of Regents had approved the construction of a new tower for the UI Children's Hospital.The announcement was met with cheers from the 2,300-plus dancers, mainly UI students, who were there for the 17th annual University of Iowa Dance Marathon, which began Friday night.
"F.T.K.!" the students shouted, spelling the acronym for "For the Kids," the slogan for this year's event. The UI Dance Marathon is an annual event in which students dance for 24 hours to raise money for the UI Children's Hospital and the Children's Miracle Network. The event has raised about $8.6 million in its 16 years for the two groups, said Sara Shankman, the event's media relations chairwoman and a UI senior in nursing from St. Charles, Ill.
Shankman, 22, said this year's Dance Marathon attracted about 2,300 dancers and more than 500 families of children who had battled cancer. She said the children have inspired UI students year after year to keep working to raise money for cancer research and services for the Children's Hospital.
"It's the kids," she said. "It's incredibly inspiring. It's really the people and we're inspired by the kids. It's constantly growing."
The night kicked off with the Morale Captains leading the student dancers in a warm-up dance, followed by the introduction of the families who were attending.
Among them was the family of Hunter Peterson, an 8-year-old from Cedar Falls who had battled lymphoma.
"I'm excited to be here because of the fun stuff ... you get to do in Iowa City," Hunter said. "I'm glad to see all the numbers and all the money they raised."
Angela Johnson of Des Moines attended with her family, including her daughter Rian Bevan, 8, who had battled cancer. Johnson said the Dance Marathon was a "celebration of life.""Because of Dance Marathon, our kids have an understanding of how lucky they are," she said. The student dancers also were getting into the fun.
Steve Han and Mike Weaver came with their fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, as their philanthropic outreach. Weaver, 19 and a freshman from Hinsdale, Ill., said the videos of the children who had fought cancer were inspiring. "Seeing the kids now makes it all worthwhile," he said.
The Dance Marathon will continue until 6 p.m. today. Today's scheduled events include a Hospital Mini Marathon at UI Children's Hospital for juvenile patients who could not make the trip to the IMU, an autograph session with Hawkeye athletes, and a check presentation from more than 20 preschools, elementaries, junior highs and high schools who conducted their own mini dance marathons.