Dancing for a Cause

Dance Marathon crowd shotFor Oksana Grybovych, associate professor of leisure, youth and human services at UNI, Dance Marathon holds a personal significance for her and her husband.

The university’s chapter organization, first established at UNI in 2011 by a group of students with Oksana serving as their advisor, raises money each year for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Miracle Network.

The University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital is where Oksana’s son, Delmar, spent most of his short life before passing away at the age of seven months following treatment for an aggressive brain tumor. Helping to bring Dance Marathon to the University of Northern Iowa was her and her husband’s way of honoring the memory of their late son.

Now in its sixth year, Dance Marathon has become the largest student-run philanthropy program at UNI. This year, the organization raised $453,278, making UNI Dance Marathon the top Dance Marathon fundraising program in the country for schools with fewer than 12,000 undergraduate students. Since 2012, UNI Dance Marathon has raised a total of $1,436,020.21.

As advisor, Oksana provides resources and guidance to help the students succeed and achieve their goals, but she is quick to credit students who devote so much of their time and energy to Dance Marathon year after year. "They are the ones who work tirelessly year round, and they are the ones who have made this organization what it is right now," said Oksana.

While involvement in UNI Dance Marathon stretches across campus, its roots can be traced back to leisure, health and human services, where volunteering and community service are integral parts of the division's culture. This philosophy of giving back to the community laid the foundation for Dance Marathon to grow into the program that it is today.