Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Dance Marthon 2013!

Iowa State's Dance Marathon 2013 was last Saturday!  This was the second year our family has been lucky enough to participate as a miracle family because of our miracle kid, Blakers.  Here's how it works for those of you who don't know: the students have to fund raise a certain amount of money and then for 15 hours straight they stand.  No sitting.  For 15 hours.  All of the money raised goes to the University of Iowa Children's Hospital, which is obviously near and dear to our hearts.

Things get started at 9 AM.  It is a crazy, fun atmosphere.  All the dancers come in with the music blaring and then the families are announced and go through a tunnel of dancers.  The kids love giving high fives!  This was the giant banner on the main stage this year.  If you look at the bottom you will see Bowen.  He's smiling at the gal in the glasses.  How cool is that?!
This is a really emotional day for me.  There's such happiness and inspiration, but tears too.  We were waiting to be announced at the back of the room and the music was playing and I turned around and saw the dM angel candles.  There is one candle for every single child that has passed away after being a miracle kid.  I looked at those candles and thought, "We shouldn't even be here.  Blake wasn't supposed to make it." The thought hit me like a ton of bricks. 
At the beginning of the day, the dancers spend the morning learning what's called the morale dance.  This is played every single hour on the hour.  This year, Jenna stayed in with the college kids and learned it right along beside them.  She did really good!
Every family has a family contact.  They're kind of like your go to.  This year we had Kayla.  She is awesome!  We just love her and she was a super big help with the kids and helping us keep our schedules straight.  It has been so fun learning about her and getting to know the past year.  I really hope we have her again next year!!

TEAL is THE color of ISU's dance marathon.  In a very awesome announcement, the ISU dM is donating $1 million to the new University of Iowa Children's Hospital that is set to open in 2016.  The money will go towards a new play room that will be teal in color as a shout out to ISU.  Super cool!
The family with Kayla
There was a family room that had a ton of different crafts, games, activities and snacks throughout the day.  One thing the kids found was the iPad.  Jenna made this:
Mr. Bowen is pretty proud of his brother. :)
Our good friend Emily Morgan is the one that originally asked us to be a dM family.  We're so thankful she did.  Her and Jenna danced it up during the morale dance.
This year, we decided that we would tell our story on the main stage in front of all the dancers.  I'm not sure why I was nervous, since I did zero talking and Aaron did it all.  We had a slide show that played during our talk that Aaron made.  It's really good and I should post it on here.  Also, Blake, Mr. Flirt waved to the crowd during the speech.  Everybody went, "Awwww...." :)
Danielle (Emily's sister) came over for her very first dance marathon.  She said she had a blast and we were so glad she came!
The Morgan family.  We love them.  They are our family that is our family even though we aren't blood related.  They would do anything for us and we are so grateful they are part of our lives.
My favorite part of the day was talking to the students in a smaller group.  You get to tell your story more in depth and the students asked really good questions.  We gave them all a #keepfightingblake bracelet to give them a reminder of what they were standing for.
Ashley came with her dad, Jay this year.  Blake wasn't so sure about her... ha!
After our chat, two students came up and talked to us more and asked about getting donor packets because they were interested in seeing if they were a match for Blake's kidney.  I was overwhelmed because I never would have expected someone to offer that!
Love these two.
They had costumes for the kids to dress-up in.  Blake as a lion was beyond cute.
Jay with a very tired Bowen.  We kept the boys up past their normal naptime so we could talk to our group.  Jay is another one that goes in the category of he's not our family, but is like family and we are so thankful he's in our life because he would do anything for us.  We are definitely blessed!
Craft time!  The kids made jet packs to go with the outer space theme.
Brody totally took to Cassy.  She was so incredibly patient with him and helped him with his jet pack and then helped Jenna make origami. 
On the t-shirts this year it says, I stand for _______.  Emily was writing Blake in Jenna's blank space.  It was neat to read what the dancers had written on theirs throughout the day.
Miss Iowa was there and Jenna Jo was in heaven!  She even got to try on her crown AND she autographed Jenna's shirt for her. 
They had a wall with the kiddos' pictures and stories.  This was Blake's.
This room is always super emotional for me.  It says "Why We Stand." The students write the reasons that they choose to stand and be a part of this amazing event.  The answers just hit me in the heart.  These students are so selfless.  Some of my favorites are at the bottom of this picture.
The candles of the dM angels.  They stay lit for the entire 15 hours.  On the quilt are the names of the kids that have passed away. So moving...

Back to games.  Bowen liked air hockey...
And more dancing!  Gotta love that morale dance...that Jenna is still singing and dancing to around the house non-stop. :)
Emily and Blake.
It's kind of a funny thing dance marathon.  You (your family) is supposed to be there to inspire the dancers.  But actually, I find myself being inspired by them.  And the other families.  I have to share this story with you...
The mom that talked on stage before said that she had lost her daughter two times.  At one point, in the hospital room she heard the doctor say, "Stop compressions." At that moment, the mom said she prayed to God that if he was going to take her little girl that he better make sure that she was strong enough to live without her.  Seconds later, the little girl sat up on the table and smiled at her mom.  Can you even imagine?!  I just can't.  I cried and got chills all at the same time.

I feel like it's such a good day for us to realize that we don't have things as bad as it may seem sometimes.  Listening to other families, they humble me.  They inspire me.  There's always two sides to every coin.  Yes, Blake's situation isn't ideal, but the positive part is we get to be a part of this amazing thing called dance marathon.  We get to meet families and students we never would have met without it.  THAT is a blessing.

At midnight it was revealed that the ISU students raised $388,457.16!  So freakin' awesome!  That money is going to do great things for a lot of families in Iowa City.  Thank you for another memorable year ISU dM!  You guys are the BEST!

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