A rainbow of IU students in FTK shirts danced, cried and spent up to 36 hours together from Friday night to Sunday morning at the IU Tennis Center all for the kids. By the end, more than $4.2 million were raised.
Banners lined the walls. Each colorful banner represented an IU Dance Marathon committee, fraternity, sorority or club.
The Tennis Center had a large stage on one end, a recreation area on the other and a food area in between the two. Students rotated through these areas based on their committee.
IU’s dance marathon has been raising money for the Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health in Indianapolis for 29 years. Participants choose to dance individually, on a team or as members of a committee. IUDM has 18 committees that organize, entertain and fundraise for the marathon.
7- 10 p.m. Friday
“Eye of the Tiger” blared through the speakers as children treated at Riley and their families entered the IU Tennis Center and received high fives. The opening ceremony at 8 p.m. Friday marked the start of the 29th annual IU Dance Marathon.
The first hour of IU Dance Marathon featured the morale committee’s 12-minute line dance performance and stories told by the parents of children treated at Riley. Hundreds of dancers swayed to the music and recited chants such as “FTK” which stands for For The Kids.
Jennifer Laman shared her appreciation for Riley and IUDM through her personal story of her son Chase’s brain tumor. She told Chase’s story alongside other families on the stage.
“We are thankful because we know Riley Hospital saved Chase’s life and they’ll always be a part of ours,” Laman said.
Participants wearing rainbow tutus, bandanas and pink crocs displayed high energy as the first hours of the dance marathon came and went. Senior Reagan White and the entire stewardship committee wore the shoes to complement their committee’s pink t-shirts. She said her favorite part of the marathon is being with her committee and listening to the Riley stories.
“I’ve already cried like four times,” White said.
During the opening ceremony, participants were invited to ring the bell on stage if they received a donation within a 10-minute period. Around 100 dancers proudly rang the bell after receiving donations.
Senior Haley Begle said she hopes the participants of IU Dance Marathon fundraise more than last year’s total of $4,187,051.23. Begle is a member of the accounting committee.
“I hope we beat last year’s total, but even if we don’t, we’ll still be fundraising a ton of money for the kids,” she said.
11:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Freshman Julia Fromstein was about four-and-a-half hours into her first IUDM around noon Saturday.
Fromstein said it had been a fun experience so far. She said her favorite part was spending time with some of the Riley kids.
“It was inspiring to hear their stories,” Fromstein said.
Action started to pick back up Saturday morning as people with 12 hour shifts like Fromstein arrived. People crowded around the stage as they learned part of a line dance.
Next to the stage area was a makeshift cage called the jail.
The jail is designed as a way to help marathoners raise more money. Students dressed as police can arrest the dancers and confine them to jail until they raise a certain amount of money.
Senior Emma Shaw said she turned herself into jail because she had avoided arrest earlier in order to spend time with her friends.
Her goal to get out of jail was $20. She had already raised $15, but said she wanted to stay in jail even after she reached the donation amount. Shaw said she sent pictures of herself in jail to people to encourage them to donate.
“This is a great way for me to get donations,” Shaw said. “It’s actually one of my favorite things to do here.”
Shaw throwing herself in jail is a testament to the level of commitment members have for IUDM. One member with a more personal connection to the cause is sophomore Macoy Riley, who used to be a Riley kid.
Riley said he was born 11 weeks premature and received care at Riley Hospital.
His connection to the hospital is part of the reason why he participated in the marathon, Riley said.
Riley said another reason he is a part of IUDM is the friendships he has through it.
Riley said IUDM was one of the first places he felt accepted at IU.
“It’s not even so much about the money raised, but the relationships you build and the impact you have on the families,” Riley said.
3 - 8 a.m. Sunday
IUDM includes a multitude of activities besides dancing such as games and prize-winning opportunities, education and donation booths and places for Riley Hospital for Children patients and their families to visit.
Throughout the marathon, past Riley patients were invited to the stage to share their stories and experiences. Two of those kids were IU students and IUDM veterans.
“I was a walking, talking, even dancing miracle,” said Jake Vahle, a member of the Recruitment Committee. Jake was diagnosed with multiple tumor diseases when he was born and had multiple surgeries throughout his life, including the removal of his colon.
“Riley became my second home, and the doctors and nurses became my family,” Vahle said.
Laura Koester, the senior chair of the Hospital Relations committee, was also a Riley patient when she was young. Koester was diagnosed with type one diabetes when she was in sixth grade, then was later diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes. She also underwent multiple surgeries at Riley.
“IUDM is more than just an organization. IUDM has given me a support system, a family,” Koester said.
Before revealing the final total, IUDM closing ceremonies involved showing videos from the weekend, including footage of all the Riley kids involved this year.
IUDM also handed out the Ashley Louise Crouse and the Ryan White awards. These awards are given to individuals who embody the spirit of dance marathon and continue the legacy of these two individuals.
Every year before the total is revealed, everyone in attendance gathered in a circle while “Angels Among Us,” played over the speakers. This moment allows everyone to remember who came before, and who will continue dance marathon in the coming years.
In total, IUDM raised $4,257,143.23 for the kids. That’s over $70,000 more than last year, and nearly double what other schools in Indiana raised at their marathons.
“People have been saying this week that IU is a football school, but I say IU is a dance marathon school,” Koester said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misspelled Laura Koester's name. The article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling. The IDS regrets this error.
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