Friday, February 3, 2012

Laugh for the Health of It

The University of Iowa Dance Marathon "creates and sustains special projects to provide emotional and financial support for pediatric oncology and bone marrow transplant patients and their families treated at the University of Iowa Children's Hospital". The Dance Marathon Big Event is an actual dancing marathon, during which students who have raised the required amount of money remain standing (and hopefully dancing or at least moving) for 24 hours. With no caffeine.

Dance Marathon began in 1994, and in its 17 years of existence as raised an incredible $9,839,313.10.

Both Tom and I participated in Dance Marathon every year we were in college; I volunteered in 1998, danced in 1999, volunteered in 2000, danced as a Morale Captain Assistant in 2001, and danced as a Morale Captain in 2002.

That final year, as a Morale Captain (students apply and are selected for Morale Captain positions) I was responsible for helping each member of a team of dancers raise enough money to participate in and stay motivated during the marathon. Though most of us were so incredibly psyched that day/night/day that we really didn't need any external motivation, there was plenty of it in the form of inspirational speakers, testimonies from Dance Marathon families, visits from friends, and notes of encouragement from family members.

My mom wrote and submitted the note below, and my team and I read it for the first time halfway through the marathon.

Laugh For the Health of It
Brenda Mueller, mother of Erin Mueller, Morale Captain 2002

Most of us like to be in control, even if we can't or won't admit it. But how we spend our days, what our outlook is, and how we try to live in the moment, rather than worrying about tomorrow, is all within our power. We have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. Never forget that. People facing life-threatening illnesses often feel they have lost that choice, that control. It takes courage and strength to deal with illness, to be an active partner in the healing and recovery process, and to die with dignity. Putting oneself in the presence of a positive atmosphere is but one method of taking control.

Dance Marathon provides a wonderful outlet for joy and fun for the participants, as well as for the children facing these tragedies. The laughter heard at Dance Marathon is like a penicillin to the immune system – its byproducts provide a means of restoring some control, as well as a respite for a weary soul. It is well-documented that laughing brings soothing benefits to the mind and body. It serves as a painkiller, a muscle relaxant, and as a powerful catharsis for the spirit. Laughing is a way to bring optimism and hope to a painful situation. By participating in Dance Marathon, you are contributing to both emotional and physiological healing.

So my encouraging words to all you dancers, and everyone else involved, is LAUGH, LAUGH, LAUGH – laugh until your belly hurts and tears run down your face and you feel like you're going to pee. Remember, laughter is contagious. You’re doing a GREAT service for yourself and all those you know and love.

I hope this year's Leadership Team, Morale Captains, Dancers, and Families - who will begin Dance Marathon 2012 at 5pm this evening - will remember to laugh.  Because when they're emotionally and physically exhausted and feel as though they can't keep their eyes open or remain on their feet for even another moment, laughter (even if it's delirious laughter) will carry them through.

In loving memory of Sebastian Dockery (8.31.96 - 12.26.98), and all of the Dance Marathon children who have lost their battles with childhood cancer.


  1. Your mom is beautiful....thanks for sharing this.

  2. You are both beautiful and I love you more than I could every say. Thank you for allowing God to use you for comfort, hope and laughter. Your deeds live on in the dancers that will be honoring the memories of those that have gone before and those that are fighting the fight. FTK forever!

  3. I am honored, sweet Erin, that you shared my thoughts. Love, you. Mom