Improving on the best first-year Dance Marathon in the nation is not an option.
It is a necessity.
The Children's Miracle Network asks that every Dance Marathon on any participating college campus raise 20 percent more money than it did the previous year. For the St. Ambrose Dance Marathon committee that means a goal of raising $60,000 through this year's 10-hour event on Saturday, April 5, in the Rogalski Center Ballroom.
"We're nervous," executive director Amanda McClure, an SAU senior, said. "But we're excited."
With cause. Student organizers were slightly surprised when last year's event drew 432 dancers and raised $48,000 to assist families of children fighting long-term illnesses.
With a week remaining before the 2014 event, more than 600 SAU students already have signed up to participate in the event, which will start at 1 p.m. and continue through 11 p.m.
McClure also said that in the wake of last year's award-winning debut—taking Best New Dance Marathon honors at the national convention—QC businesses have been contacting the 2014 committee, unsolicited, to ask about ways they can sponsor or assist.
"People are so committed to the cause," said senior Averi Wilson, the assistant executive director. "We have 600 students who know what they are there for, and they are excited. They know about the charity, and not just the event."
The Children's Miracle Network is embodied within the 18 local families of sick children—up from 13 a year ago—who have been adopted by the St. Ambrose organization, and all of whom are expected to attend the April 5 event.
That includes Bethany, her parents and three siblings. Two years ago, Bethany was undergoing chemotherapy for a form of leukemia unique to children and the elderly at the tender age of 1, when a trial Dance Marathon was put together in a matter of 10 weeks. The disease is in remission today, and Dance Marathon participants will have a hard time keeping up with the now 3-year-old on April 5, Wilson said.
"You can't stop her," said Wilson, who will enroll in medical school next year.
Likewise, it's hard to imagine the SAU Dance Marathon not growing into a consistent success. It is, after all, the St. Ambrose mission in happy-footed action.
"People tell us this is what they love about St. Ambrose," Wilson said. "For a lot of students, this is what they put their heart into while they are here."
This year's event will include new wrinkles like live-streaming video and a steady flow of news, pictures and tweets to the Twitter hashtag #SAUDM2.