Why they dance for 24 hours

khane smith

At 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 4, hundreds of University of Iowa students will participate in UI Dance Marathon’s BIG Event, an extravaganza that keeps participants on their feet and dancing to the beat for 24 hours. Imagery from the annual event is well-known: a whirlwind of fluorescent color, strobe effects, and hands waving in the air.

By Saturday evening, weariness and excitement are simultaneously expressed on the faces of the dancers, faces that often feature the tracks of tears shed during emotional moments of celebration and remembrance.

What fyi wants to show today is not what participants do at Dance Marathon, but rather why they do it. They do it to provide emotional and financial support to pediatric oncology and bone marrow transplant patients and their families treated at University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. Patients such as Khane Smith, the boy shown above and in the thumbnails at the end of this post.

Khane, a 3-year-old boy from Harcourt, Iowa, became ill with pneumonia and meningitis at the age of 5 months. From that illness he developed transverse myelitis, an autoimmune illness that attacks the nerves of the spine, causing inflammation and destruction of the nerve sheath. He receives intravenous immunoglobulin treatments to supress his immune system so his body won’t attack his spine any more.

In August 2010, Khane was admitted once again to UI Children’s Hospital in Iowa City for leg pain. After extensive tests, a bone marrow biopsy confirmed a diagnosis of cancer. Khane receives chemotherapy treatments at UI Children’s Hospital. fyi spent a January morning with Khane—click on the thumbnails below to see some of the images.