Dance Marathon 3 at GHS to benefit Iowa Children's Hospital

For the third straight year, Geneseo High School will host a Dance Marathon that will benefit Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

The student-led event, which will take place on March 9, will raise funds specifically for local families with a child at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital to help fund critical treatments, healthcare services, pediatric medical equipment and charitable care.

Mia Kelly and Olivia Marshall have been involved with the event all three years. This year, Kelly is the captain of logistics and events, while Marshall is in charge of public relations and sponsorships.

The student event features four hours of dancing, games, food and fundraising. Each year, a handful of local families are sponsored and invited to attend, and families that have previously attended are welcomed back as well.

Dance Marathon 3 at GHS to benefit Iowa Children's Hospital

“Dance Marathon is so much fun, and it’s a great way for our high school and the local community to come together and raise awareness while having a good time,” explains Olivia. “The kids and their families are in challenging situations but we want to celebrate their bravery and help in any way we can.”

“It’s a giant dance party,” adds Mia. “We get to hear the families’ stories, and that’s what is really impactful, especially when you can see how the Dance Marathons have helped. The financial assistance helps a ton, but hopefully all of the support brings a smile to their faces as well.”

For those interested in contributing to this year’s Dance Marathon, there are a few ways to get involved: Students can register to participate, local businesses can sponsor the event, and individuals can donate to support the student or team of their choice.

Students wishing to attend–and receive a free Dance Marathon shirt–simply need to raise a minimum of $25, though surpassing that figure is encouraged.

Local businesses that sponsor the event are highlighted on Dance Marathon’s Instagram account (@ghs.dancemarathon) and throughout the evening on signage and shirts.

Geneseo’s first Dance Marathon raised nearly $23,000, last year’s total exceeded $27,000, and this year, the goal is to surpass $30,000.

Dance Marathon 3 at GHS to benefit Iowa Children's Hospital

“For the students, we just want you to know it’s all for a great cause,” says Olivia. “The entire event is so much fun, and for us, that includes all of the planning leading up to it. It’s a wonderful opportunity for businesses to be involved, too. It allows them to partner with our high school and help local families.”

“It’s important for students to know that even as teenagers, we can make a big difference,” adds Mia. “When you hear the stories, you understand what an incredible impact the event has on people’s lives.”

The Dance Marathon program has really taken off at the collegiate level, where the events last a full 24 hours. Iowa Children’s Hospital recently held its dance marathon–it started at 7 pm on Friday, Feb. 2 and finished at 7 pm on Saturday, Feb. 3, and it raised $1.45 million.

Event sponsors–which for Geneseo’s Dance Marathon include Sara Bertelsen, a science teacher at GHS, and Mia’s parents, Ryan, a math teacher at GHS, and Mandy Kelly–play important roles, but that it is a student-led movement makes it all the more meaningful for Olivia and Mia.

“One hundred percent,” says Olivia. “I’ve personally experienced so much from being part of this event over the last three years and it’s helped me grow as a person. I’ve learned more about being a leader and being someone who is responsible. Hopefully I can continue being involved in college.”

Dance Marathon 3 at GHS to benefit Iowa Children's Hospital

For Mia, the significance is even greater. In 2019, her younger sister Addi was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. Due to its location, it was not able to be fully removed in surgery, and she had to endure 60 weeks of chemotherapy as if she had cancer.

This past November, she was put back on medication and though she is not immunocompromised, she’s still battling the condition, much like many of the children who benefit from Dance Marathons.

“I’m part of a Dance Marathon family, so to be able to be involved and give back to other families, knowing first-hand how much the events have helped my own family, is super cool and very rewarding,” Mia explains.

As the days countdown to Dance Marathon 3, Mia and Oliva are both grateful for the opportunity to be involved.

“We both play sports and years from now, we know most people won’t remember what we did or accomplished as athletes,” explains Mia. “The impact that events like this have on children and their families last a lifetime. They will know that people cared enough to help at a time when they were struggling. That’s pretty cool.”

“It’s been an extremely rewarding experience,” says Olivia. “We hear from the children and families who have benefited from Dance Marathons and it means so much to them. Some of those connections for us have carried on beyond the event. Knowing our efforts have made such an impact makes it all worth it.”

Dance Marathon 3: Register now OR donate to the event

If you’re a local business interested in sponsoring Geneseo High School’s Dance Marathon 3, please email Sara Bertelsen at