If you consider yourself a Hoosier and haven't heard of Indiana University Dance Marathon, you may want to take a serious look at where you've been spending a majority of your time. Sure, every student loves their Wednesday nights at the Blue Bird for $.15 beers, but the real heroes of the night are the students you'll see when you walk out the door, holding little red buckets and asking you to donate your spare change to the nation's second largest student run philanthropy.
IUDM is a 36 hour dance marathon which was founded in 1991 after the passing of Indiana native Ryan White, who would have started his freshman year at IU that fall. In its inaugural year the marathon raised an admirable $10,900 for Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. To date, the marathon has raised over $12 million for the Ryan White Infectious Disease Center at Riley and has no plans of slowing down.
Students are brought to their first dance marathon by several different ways, but those who choose to come back for a second year have managed to find a personal connection to the event. Senior Amanda Jenks began her IUDM journey during the fall of her freshman year after being encouraged by her older brother to become involved in the marathon. Three years later, Jenks is preparing for her fourth and final year participating in the marathon as a member of the Dancer Relations committee.
"I never imagined that a dance marathon could mean so much to me, and it continues to surpass any and all of my expectations," Jenks said. "As a senior, I have come to realize that this is one of the only times on campus where your age, your roots, or the letter your might wear across your chest are completely irrelevant. Being a part of something so special and unique is what keeps me coming back."
The touching stories from kids and families about how Riley Hospital and dance marathon have had an impact on their lives has inspired many dancers to return to the event year after year. Junior Caroline Billinson completed her first dance marathon in 2011 with her pledge class, and after seeing first-hand the influence IUDM has on the families of Riley Hospital, she has decided to return for a second year as a group representative for her sorority.
"After hours of standing, dancing, and no sleep, it's all worth it to see a smiling kid and know that you made that smile happen. The stories told by Riley kids at the marathon are compelling and inspirational and make me want to work harder to make a difference," Billinson said.
IUDM has several affiliate high schools throughout the state of Indiana which host their own dance marathons whose totals are added to IU's at the end of the year. Sophomore Josie Tanner went to one of these high schools in Indianapolis, where she first heard of IUDM. Coming to IU as a freshman, Tanner was looking for ways to get involved on campus and pursued dance marathon, not realizing at the time the impact it would have on the rest of her college career.
"IUDM is the most inspirational thing I have ever been a part of," Tanner said. "These kids have faced such difficulties that it really puts things in perspective."
No matter your motivation, deciding to become involved with IUDM will surely be a memorable experience during your time at IU. With 750 committee members and over 1,500 registered dancers eagerly awaiting the opening ceremonies at 8 p.m. n October 26, all of this year's participants will be a part of IUDM history as the biggest marathon in the history of the organization kicks off its 22nd annual marathon, for the kids.
*It's not too late to donate to IUDM. Will you be a part of the numbers? Every cent counts! http://iudm.org/