On October 26-28, the nation's second larget student run philanthropy took place in IU's very own tennis center. The Indiana University Dance Marathon raises money to support Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis. Riley doesn't turn away any family or patient based on financial need, and they perform some radical therapies in order to do everything possible to help children. But this weekend is different than most- there is no sitting. We are standing for those who can't. That's the point. This is my favorite weekend of the year- and it is truly college's greatest weekend.
Over the course of 36 hours, over 2,500 student dancers and 750 committee members gathered in the Tennis Center. This time was spent listening to inspirational Riley stories, learning a line dance, playing games, eating, and even spending time with the Riley children... if you are a dancer. As a committee member, your jobs vary depending on what committee you are on. I was on Marketing, so I got VIP passes and got to take pictures and videos of just about every minute of the marathon. Unfortunately for you... they all went onto the IUDM dropbox... so I don't really have any of them to share. I'll see what I can scrounge. But they all go into making the final video that plays right before the total is raised. That's my committee. I felt cool because a lot of the video and pictures I shot went into it. Sweet action. That's the gist of the marathon.
THIS IS THE VIDEO WE WORKED ON!!!
But IUDM is so much more than that. There is no way that I will be able to capture the buzz that happens during the opening ceremonies, or the excitment that builds when learning the morale dance, or even the tears that fall during your favorite stories. Honestly you have to experience it, but I can try.
The weekend starts out with a tunnel. All the committee members form a tunnel for the dancers to run through in order to kick off the marathon. You see all the colors flash around you, and as you're running through, you may feel a friends hand reach out to grab you. People are screaming, the "Eye of the Tiger" is playing, and madness is building. It all leads up to this mob of people who don't even know why they are excited, but they are. The energy in the place could move mountains... and it does... figuratively.
Eventually, groups break up into rotations, where you do the things mentioned above. Then everyone gets drawn back to the stage to listen to some Riley inspiration. I'm going to share my personal favorite story now. But before I start, I should mention that each organization, or Greek house, or committee, sponsors a Riley kid. They may invite them over to dinner, or give them a goody basket filled to the brim with treats and goodies. It is a way to celebrate everyone's life and help them feel comfortable. Of course, the kids also have a bounce zone, face painting, a ping pong table, and loads of food to enjoy over the weekend. But my inspiration comes from Haley Simpson. She is a cancer survivor, and she is only ~12 (13?, she's young, and adorable). But she doesn't speak at the marathon, her dad does. And he makes me cry every time. Mr. Simpson talks about how hard it was for him to watch his baby girl feel so much pain that he couldn't take away.
Up until this point in her life, he was the one that could fix anything, and put a bandaid on it to stop the hurt. But as she was going through chemo, she had a morphine drip and a constant morphine line that was supposed to help ease the pain. As he was sitting on the side of her bed, she was squeezing his hand so hard to the point that his fingers were turning blue. But he couldn't let go, because he couldn't bear leaving her alone to deal with this pain. He said he would've paid millions of dollars to ease the pain for a minute, but there was nothing he could do.Then he heard a knock on the door and a nurse came in and asked if Haley would want to do an activity. He was appalled because how dare she come in at a time like this when his baby girl was going through so much pain. But then he felt the blood rush back into his fingertips and she asked, without opening her eyes, "what is it Daddy?" Mr. Simpson couldn't believe it, and then the nurse asked if she would like to decorate a purse. She said, "I would like that Daddy," and proceeded to forget about where she was for a little bit. (This is the part where Mr. Simpson normally starts crying.) He said that the "stupid purse" was just what his little girl needed to ease the pain for a moment. The nurses at Riley work miracles, he says, and the medicine is not the only things that Riley provides. He goes on to say how thankful he is to them and to us for doing what we do. If I am going to be completely honest, it is this story that inspires me to continue on in my career path as a (future) art therapist. Yes, the Riley families inspire us so much, but as another speaker said, we inspire them too.
By the end of the marathon, and even at hour 25 when you have been standing for over a day, and your feet hurt, and you're tired, and hungry, and just want to go home, you have to remember what you are doing it for. You have never had to go through 300 rounds of chemo. You can stand for 5 more minutes. You have never had a basketball goal fall on your throat and crush your vocal chords. You can stand for 5 more minutes. When I danced all 36 hours, I had to lie to myself in order to make it through. But I did it. And it was so worth it.
I feel as though this post is getting kind of long, but Indiana University Dance Marathon is one of my biggest passions. I could write for days about this. But I will stop now, and proceed to include pictures and YouTube clips.
My committee color was Yellow, and my house color was Purple- torn between complimentary colors.
There were also musical performances speckled throughout the 3 days. This is Clayton Anderson!
(Also we had Zumba, a couple Raves, and a Riley Kid Talent Show)
This is TATUM!!! She was the other Riley Kid my committee sponsored! This is her singing during the Talent Show!
This is me... jumping. I had amazing support from all my family and friends throughout the entire year that we worked to make this event possible. I raised over $1,500, my personal best.
Oh wait... you want to know how much we raised? That's kind of the whole point of this... weird...
It was a record breaking year, and a truly incredible event to be involved in. FTK! (For the kids)
Here is the complete line dance that all the dancers learned! It's fun.
That's all for me... today
Peace, Love, Riley Children.