Luther holds first in-person Dance Marathon since pandemic


2019 Luther College Dance Marathon Photo Courtesy of Photo Bureau

After two years of COVID-19 restrictions, the Luther College Dance Marathon (LCDM) returned to its in-person “big event” on Saturday, April 9. The event was held in the Regents Center North Gym from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Marathon is the culmination of all the hard work and fundraising that the group does throughout the school year. This year it included dances led by Morale Captains, performances from dance groups on campus, fundraising challenges, and stories of families who have been impacted by the Dance Marathon.


Luther College Dance Marathon is a part of the Miracle Network Dance Marathon organization, a nonprofit with the goal of raising funds for children’s hospitals. Students and campus communities across both the U.S. and Canada have the opportunity to start a Dance Marathon, with the proceeds going to a specific hospital based on location. Oftentimes this is a local hospital, but Luther College Dance Marathon is partnered with the Stead Family Children’s Hospital at the University of Iowa, as it is the nearest pediatrics hospital.


Every hour on the hour, there was a new activity for attendees to participate in. This oftentimes included learning the “Morale Dance” from the Morale Captains and some sort of fundraising challenge. Attendees were excited to be at an in-person Dance Marathon. Payton Shockey (’23) spoke about the significance of the Dance Marathon in his life and how this year’s cause connects closely to his own experience. 


“My cousin has recently gone through some similar struggles as what some of [Stead’s] kids are doing,” Shockey said. “My brother is very involved with the Dance Marathon at the University of Iowa, so he kind of got me started on this. I love dancing for the kids and I’m glad we could have it in-person this year.”


Fundraising throughout the year typically includes a lot of in-person events and some door-to-door fundraising. However, COVID-19 has been a hindrance to these types of larger fundraising events. Consequently, most of the fundraising has been virtual. While virtual fundraising is still the most common way that members raise money, the executive board and other participants worked to bring back some in-person fundraising this year. LCDM Executive Director Emma Forbes (’23) reflected on the return to modified live events.


“This year, we’ve had smaller events [for] fundraising,” Forbes said. “We’ve had a cornhole tournament that people paid to register to play for a while. We did a grilled cheese fundraiser recently. We had a turkey trot in November that people paid to register for and all of that money goes straight to [Stead Family Children’s Hospital], so none of it stays with us.”


COVID-19 restrictions have also affected participation levels this year. Forbes remarked that while there have been as many as 400 people involved in the past, there were only 55 participants this year. Morale Recruitment Director Molly Graff (’23) shared that last year was particularly difficult for the group.


“From what I’ve been told from last year compared to this year, last year was really difficult because everything had to be socially distanced,” Graff said. “Everything was on Zoom, and it was just really hard to navigate through what a traditional big event day would be for people. They lost that togetherness, for just having a big day of celebration for all of the hard work they put in.”


Lexi Orth (’22) spoke about the importance of Dance Marathon from the perspective of a future healthcare professional. After spending some time out in the field, she was able to empathize with the dire situation some patients find themselves in. She saw the Dance Marathon as a way to make those situations seem a bit brighter for patients who may need some positivity.


“I have been around a lot of individuals who have some of these illnesses, and I know how little support they can sometimes get,” Orth said. “Being a part of a fundraiser that gives them that support that they need to help them bring joy and happiness into the life that they have is [great].”


Luther College Dance Marathon raised over $8,000 for the Stead Family Children’s Hospital at the University of Iowa as of Saturday, April 9. If students would like to get involved in next year’s Dance Marathon fundraising and event, they can send an email to [email protected]