Students Find Opportunity to Help Community

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“For the kids! For the kids!”

Siblings and co-hosts DeWayne and DeJa’ Willingham led a crowd of UIS students through this chant throughout the evening of March 4, 2016, as the students participated in the second annual Dance Marathon to raise money and awareness for the Children’s Miracle Network (CMN).

Kaydence and Brandon at UIS Dance Marathon
Kaydence (far left) and Brandon (at right) take to the stage with some UIS students during a dance competition.

In the audience, watching the co-hosts, was Brandon, a 12-year-old who has battled bowel and urinary issues for most of his life. On this night, however, he was playing basketball, and showing off his best whip and nae nae moves on stage.

UIS Dance Marathon

Dance Marathons are popular CMN fundraisers at universities throughout the country, but it was LeAnna Kehl’s enthusiasm that brought the event to UIS.

Last year, as the Public Health Chair of the UIS Leadership for Life (L4L) Service Program, LeAnna attended a Dance Marathon Leadership Conference and decided UIS needed to host a Dance Marathon


She enlisted the help of her friend and an L4L mentor Sophia Matthews, and the two got to work making the marathon a reality. They and their team raised $5000 during last year’s marathon, and this year they exceeded that by raising $6107 by the night of the event.

Collage of UIS Dance Marathon photos

Dance Marathon is a nationwide movement at more than 250 schools across the country, all raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in their community.

Locally, St. John’s Children’s Hospital is part of the Children’s Miracle Network, and the money raised at UIS goes there. Families who have benefited from St. John’s CMN came to the Dance Marathon to share their stories with attendees.

Two Photos of Families at the UIS Dance Marathon
Above: One-year-old Molly gets attention from UIS volleyball players. Below: Kaydence and Taryn enjoy themselves at the Dance Marathon.

UIS students met Kaydence, a preemie who was born at only 25 weeks old. She is currently six-years-old and has already had six surgeries, including an ileostomy. However, she is doing well and shows no outward signs of being born premature.

This was evident as she took every opportunity to do the splits, boogie across the stage, and dance with UIS students.

Children Dancing

Watching the kids enjoy themselves is an inspiration for LeAnna.

“Seeing the children running around and having fun with the college students, and seeing the parents having a good time is why we are doing this,” she says. “We are not only donating money, but giving these families a sort of break where they can let loose.”

Both LeAnna and Sophia hope that the Dance Marathon continues to grow at UIS. “I want it to be part of the UIS culture,” LeAnna says, “where people are constantly talking about the families and fundraising.”

UIS Dance Marathon

More about the UIS Dance Marathon: