DAVENPORT — There were hundreds of reasons to dance Saturday, but ultimately, it was for the kids.
Nearly 700 St. Ambrose University students filled the campus' Rogalski Center Ballroom on Saturday for the second annual SAU Dance Marathon to benefit the Children's Miracle Network and the University of Iowa Children's Hospital in Iowa City.
For 10 hours, students, volunteers and more packed the room in support of 18 "Miracle Families" who have benefited from the Children's Miracle Network. It was the culmination of a year of fundraising for the cause, organizers said.
Nearly half of the SAU campus was participating Saturday, said SAU Dance Marathon executive director Amanda McClure, an SAU senior from Bloomington.
It was a chance for the campus to come together for "one really, really awesome cause."
The marathon got its start with a "preview" event in 2012 where just over $5,100 was raised. Last year, the group raised more than $47,700, Ms. McClure said, adding that this year, the group's goal was to raise $60,000.
While the proceeds from their efforts help a hospital in Iowa City, Ms. McClure said, it does benefit "so many local families" who have sought treatment there.
Event dancers are asked to not partake in caffeine or alcohol during the marathon, or sit down for the entire 10 hours. It helps teach participants about "the exhaustion our kiddos go through in the hospital," when they are there for weeks and months at a time, she said. "In some small way ... we can try to understand."
Since the preview event two years ago, students have been able to keep up with the Miracle Families at fundraising events throughout the years.
"Getting to see the kiddos grow, you know you're making a difference," she said. It's "so fulfilling."
Several of the Miracle Families took the stage Saturday to tell their stories, including the Snodgrass family, of Geneseo. Ms. McClure said it "put a face" to the cause, and gave dancers "that cause connection."
Jenny Snodgrass and her husband, Justin, played with their children Addi, 7, and Luke, who will turn 4 tomorrow.
Luke was born with transposition of the great arteries, where the two main arteries of the heart are reversed. He had open-heart surgery in Iowa City at six months old, his parents said, and another open heart surgery last summer at OSF Saint Francis in Peoria. He also had a pacemaker implanted five days after that.
"We just think it's really cool that kids this age would dedicate this time," Ms. Snodgrass said.
"It's emotional," she said, adding that it has connected the family with others who have experienced similar heart defects.
The Snodgrasses said they've seen the benefits of fundraising efforts such as SAU's "first hand." While spending time in the hospital with Luke, the Snodgrasses said they saw several wings, playrooms and the like dedicated to various dance marathon organizations and other groups for their fundraising efforts.
At the Rogalski Center, stairwells were filled with neon cards that proclaimed why participants were dancing. "So the kiddos have hope," one card read. "For more birthdays," read another.
Students clad in neon shirts, socks, shoes, bandanas and tutus filled the ballroom, jumping, dancing, laughing and singing along to the music.
Dancer Mariah Balinski, of Davenport, who is in Physical Therapy School at SAU, said she was dancing Saturday because she wants to help enable kids to "live their lives," and "run, ride a bike, dance, like we're doing right now."
The event also included laser tag, face painting, karaoke, a photo booth, hair donations, massages, games, a talent show, food and more.
"I think it's just a great cause," Ms. Balinski said. For more information about the St. Ambrose University Dance Marathon, visit saudm.org
Today is Thursday, Oct. 2, the 275th day of 2014. There are 90 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: The ladies have adopted the fashion of wearing representations of insects in the flowers on their bonnets. Some look very natural. 1889 -- 125 years ago: T.F. Cary, former Rock Island alderman, has accepted a position as salesman for a Chicago wallpaper house and plans to move to that city. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Work on the new telephone building on 18th Street between 6th and 7th avenues is progressing rapidly. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island's new theater at 3rd Avenue and 19th Street will have a name significant of its location. The "Rocket" is scheduled to open Thanksgiving Day. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Two of Rock Island's newest water towers were vandalized last night, including the one at 38th Street and 31st Avenue, where police took five Moline boys into custody about 9 p.m.. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Some of us who live in the Quad-Cities take the Mississippi River for granted, or at least we used to. But the river is not taken for granted by our visitors. And most Quad-Citians are realizing the importance of the river to this area as increased emphasis is placed on tourism.