OLIVIA FOSTER, TRUMPET GUEST WRITER
When COVID arrived in March 2020, Dance Marathon adjusted. The Big Event was cancelled. Miracle kids and their families were forced to isolate, since many are immunocompromised. The Dance Marathon groups, called morale teams, felt separated from their miracle kids.
“It was a mad rush when everything shut down,” Bree Gryp, the co-director of Dance Marathon at Wartburg, said. “The hospital advised us to stop fundraising and in the midst of everything we had to pull together a virtual Big Event.”
The Dance Marathon team made the decision to have a week-long virtual event that celebrated a different aspect of the organization each day. There were days of appreciation for the miracle kids, the sponsors, and everyone who participated.
In the fall, when Dance Marathon started back up again, rules and regulations were put in place for the safety of the miracle kids and student participants. Masks and social distancing requirements are in place at all events and miracle kids and their families attend virtually.
“The safety of our miracle kiddos is a top priority,” Haley Meyer, the co-director of Dance Marathon, said. “So many of them already have serious health complications. We don’t want to risk their health and safety further by possibly exposing them to COVID.”
Even though Dance Marathon participants can’t physically be with the miracle kids right now, they have found other ways to connect with them. Many students have sent their miracle kids gift packages, had virtual meals, and watched movies together online.
“Being able to watch everyone connect despite the circumstances has been the best experience,” Meyer said. “It hurts being away from the kiddos, but they’ve handled it better than anyone and I think we’re all looking forward to having the Big Event coming up in March.”
With some adjustments, Dance Marathon is planning to host their Big Event similarly to how they have in the past. The day will be split up into three smaller shifts instead of one 12-hour event.
The event will take place in the Wartburg-Waverly Sports and Wellness Center so that there is a lot of room for social distancing. Miracle families will not be able to attend the events, but there will be plenty of virtual activities.
“Silent discos have been really popular in the past, where everyone dances with headphones in,” said Gryp. “We will also have one meal on each shift instead of the three that would normally happen. We also have people get signed up to donate bone marrow, so that’s another good cause.”
While the purpose of Dance Marathon is to help the kids getting treated at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, the organization also helps out the Wartburg community.
“Because so many students are involved in Dance Marathon, a lot of people know what it is and can see the impact that it makes, which is pretty cool,” said Gryp. “And I think that goes to show a lot about how caring and giving the Wartburg community is.”
In the past, Wartburg College Dance Marathon has had roughly 346 students participate in and has seen an increase in numbers each year. This is the 13th year of the event and was started to raise awareness and fundraise money to support the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Dance Marathon was originally started at the University of Indiana as a fundraiser for AIDS awareness and has morphed into an organization for change directly supporting the 170 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals across North America.
The highest total fundraised in a single year has been $153,307.11 and was the last time we were able to host an in-person Big Event in 2019. Last year the group fundraised $96,313.20 but had fundraising efforts halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Wartburg College Dance Marathon.
Despite the difficulties thrown at them by the pandemic, Dance Marathon is finding ways to push through and give their miracle kids fun experiences while raising money for their hospital care.