Dance Marathon has a meaning for everyone. I never knew how much an organization would shape me until I stumbled across my dance marathon family.
Let me back up. As a senior in high school, I had my pick of state schools. I have two older sisters, one went to Ball State, and the other came here to IU. Being the stubborn person that I am, I almost chose Purdue because I wanted to be different. All of these schools are great, but I am so glad I made the right choice. In high school, we started up this thing called "Dance Marathon" which raised money for Riley Children's Hospital. It was the coolest thing I had ever heard of. Then college kids came to our dance marathon and I realized that it was bigger than just our high school - that a lot of not only high schools, but universities put on DMs. It was in this small fact that I made my college decision. All the schools I looked at had great psych programs, I could study abroad, Greek life, etc, but none of the Indiana state schools can rival the IU Dance Marathon.
As a freshman, I joined the Residence Hall Recruitment Council and stood as a 36 hour dancer in my first DM. (Team Yellow throwback <) Talk to anyone who stands that long and they will tell you it hurts like hell. And if they don't say that, they are lying to you. But the awesome thing about Dance Marathon is that the pain is worth it. You are literally standing for those who can't, and it is quite the selfless act.
In the winter of that year, I joined my first committee - the Marketing committee, and I spent all year taking pictures of DM events. I did not feel the "family" that I was looking for, so the next year I went out for the Marathon Relations committee - which involves going to high schools around the state for their dance marathons and helping them to be successful. I never knew how much a group of people could change my life. Yes, I am feeling nostalgic, and it's 2 am during finals week, but this statement could not be more true.
As my directors have said, the more you give to Dance Marathon, the more it gives to you. During the spring semester, MR travels almost every weekend to high school DMs. These are not required, but encouraged. The group of us who make it to as many as we can become bonded in a way that is unlike any other. These people are the ones that jam out to "Who Let the Dogs Out" in the car, dance the line dance at tailgates, know the safety dance like their heartbeat, and are willing to look like a fool if it helps pump up the high schoolers. These are also the people who will hold your hand as you cry for yet another Riley story, who acknowledge the miracles of the survivors, push you to fundraise just a little bit more, and inspire you to truly put your heart and soul into a year's work.
I have often been told that I inspire people, and this has sometimes led me to having an ego in the "I do more for people than you" department. But I can honestly say, that the friends I have made through dance marathon are actually way more inspiring than I could ever hope to be. New fundraising ideas are hatched all the time- I've seen a friend do outrageous "dares for donations" YouTube stunts, my subcommittee leaders be pied in the face for the top fundraisers, embarrassing photos released if people reach their goals, and more. (The Miley look alike in this picture is my dear friend Ian- my first and longest DM inspiration.)
As a committee member on any committee, you dedicate time for kids you may never meet, for a hospital that you may never have been affiliated with, for families who have no way to truly reciprocate their thanks. There is no "true" benefit to participating in Dance Marathon, except for maybe a resume builder - which if this is you - get out. So then, how are there still over 2,000 committee members and just as many dancers every year? Dance Marathon unites college students, who are often thought of as self-centered, to work together for one cause. It changes you and reminds you of how precious life is. It causes you to take a moment, or 36 hours, to think about other people and how you can help them.
When I think about how much time, money, effort, blood, sweat, and tears I have given to DM over the last 4 years, it doesn't even begin to match what I have gained from this organization. I have met an amazing group of people who I can truly call my family. They know more about me than most (even the long lost relatives on Facebook). My MRican fam has more pride in the colors of the flag than anyone I know. They know how to make a GroupMe so annoying, but yet entertaining enough that I can't bear to turn off my notifications. They are people to sit at baseball games with, play intramural water polo with, and eat copious amounts of Crimson Creamery with, all of which have nothing to do with Riley. These are also the people I can turn to when I need a funny snapchat as a pick me up, or the people I can text for anything. These are the people who know how to find the best inspirational YouTube videos. Yes, you can find these types of people in any organization on campus, but the bonus with DMers is that you get the added benefit of these people being the most caring students on campus. (Yes, I'm biased.)
(My all time favorite DM pic)
I feel a certain level of respect when I see anyone walking on campus with Dance Marathon apparel, because without even knowing them, I understand that they love a cause as much as I do. Not all organizations can cause such a swell of pride from a t-shirt.
This has been a lengthy post, but I truly cannot put into words how much Dance Marathon will change you if you go all-in. This is my last spring being involved in DM, and that realization makes me choke a little. The selfish part of being selfless, is that no matter how much you give, DM will always give you more.
For more information on getting involved with DM: click here.
Always, in All Ways-
For The Kids, Ryan White, and Ashley Crouse