SIOUX CITY | Ben Linden said he's merely a competent dancer while his twin brother Alex said he can bust a move as long as Daft Punk is playing in the background.
They will both have plenty of opportunities to let loose during the University of Iowa Dance Marathon's 24th annual Big Event, taking place at Iowa Memorial Union, beginning at 7 p.m. Feb. 2 and ending exactly 24 hours later.
With an outreach of nearly 3,000 students, the University of Iowa Dance Marathon is the largest student-run organization on the Iowa City campus. A year-round organization that runs several events during the course of a year, its goal is to provide emotional, medical and financial support to pediatric cancer patients and their families at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital.
Over the past 23 years, the Dance Marathon has raised more than $21.5 million. Last year alone, it raised more than $2.5 million.
The Dance Marathon was an organization that Alex and Ben, both 2014 Bishop Heelan Catholic High School graduates, wanted to be a part of.
"We learned about this high-energy charitable organization from a friend during our senior year at Heelan," Alex remembered. "She knew that Ben and I were going to the University of Iowa and suggested we become involved with the Dance Marathon."
During their freshman year, the brothers both raised the $500 needed to participate in the Big Event. They subsequently decided to take on leadership roles in the nonprofit organization.
Ben is currently the organization's family relations director while Alex is its executive director.
"I never envisioned myself as being a 21-year-old executive director of a 501(c)(3) organization while still a full-time student," Alex said. "But I've loved every minute of it."
Indeed, Alex was hooked as soon as he held onto a 6-month-old baby getting chemotherapy on Stead Family Children's Hospital's recently named 11th floor University of Iowa Dance Marathon Pediatric Cancer Center.
"Here's a kiddo who had never done anything wrong in her entire life," he said. "It breaks your heart to see a baby fighting for life. That feeling stays with you."
Like his brother, Ben volunteered his time with patients undergoing cancer treatment.
"Pediatric cancer may be a misnomer since I remember sitting with a guy who was roughly my own age," Ben remembered. "We talked about music or sports but we didn't talk much about cancer. It just goes to show that cancer doesn't discriminate. It can happen to anyone at any time."
The brothers, both biochemical and public health seniors, would like to pursue medical careers after they graduate in the spring.
Until then, they just wanna dance. So is the University of Iowa's Dance Marathon just 24 hours of continuous dancing?
"No, we also do things like Jazzercise, Zumba, even laser tag," Alex said. "All we ask is that the dancers not sit or sleep or drink caffeine for 24 hours."
"The caffeine thing is the killer," Ben interjected. "I'll be chugging down an iced coffee minutes before the start of the marathon as a way to compensate."
No rest and no caffeine? That seems pretty brutal, right?
Well, not according to Alex.
"The purpose of this dance party is to celebrate the kiddos who have won their fight against cancer, stand by those who are still fighting and honor those who are still dancing in our hearts," he said. "Whatever we're going through pales to what the kids are experiencing."
Judge to referee Manson estate fight
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The fight over the estate and body of apocalyptic cult leader Charles Manson has fragmented into at least three competing camps that could cash in on songs he wrote that were used by The Beach Boys and Guns N' Roses.
A Los Angeles judge on Monday will begin trying to sort out at least two conflicting wills and claims to his estate by a purported son, grandson and pen pal.
At stake are commercial rights to the mass murderer's name, image and mementos that can fetch thousands of dollars from so-called murderabilia collectors.
Manson died at age 83 in November nearly a half-century after he orchestrated the 1969 killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and eight other people.
Two people hold wills they claim Manson signed, though a friend says Manson left no will.
Aggressive turkeys stopping mail service
ROCKY RIVER, Ohio — Postal carriers say a rafter of aggressive wild turkeys have prevented them from delivering mail to more than two dozen homes in a Cleveland suburb.
Cleveland.com reports residents on a number of streets in Rocky River have had to pick up their mail at the post office because the turkeys have created unsafe conditions for carriers to deliver to their homes.
Rocky River Mayor Pam Bobst said the problem has persisted for the last three weeks. She said city ordinances don't allow for the turkeys to be eradicated.
The city has instead sent letters to people asking them to stop putting out bird feed in the hope the turkeys will go elsewhere.
A U.S. Postal Service spokesman says some carriers have been pecked but none have been injured.
SIOUX CITY | Plans to place a tribute to the hit 1940s song "Sioux City Sue" on a water tank in Singing Hills could resurface at Monday's City Council meeting.
And they're likely to, once again, look a bit different than previous designs.
Councilwoman Rhonda Capron, who has been a leading proponent of putting a reference to the 1945 folk song by Dick Thomas and Ray Freedman on the prominent water tank in Sertoma Park, said she favors placing the words "Home of Sioux City Sue" on the side of the tank for passing traffic to see, coupled with an artistic painting of generic musical notes.
That idea is a slight change of course from a plan discussed by council members two months ago that would have put the city's name on the side and used actual musical notes from the song. Capron told The Journal Friday that the panel looking into the designs have backed off that idea because it could cost an extra $3,500 to $5,000 to obtain the legal rights for the music.
"We kind of nixed getting the rights to it because that was going to cost too much money," she said.
The council's discussion Monday will come as it votes whether to accept a bid of $95,640 to repaint the tank. That would include both the basic exterior coat and designs on the tank's side and top.
The bids have come in much lower than expected, with a low bid by Perry, Georgia-based Utility Service Co. Inc., sitting at $95,640 -- more than 56 percent less than the engineer's original $220,000 estimate.
The tank, which is noticeable from the Highway 75 bypass, Interstate 29, Cone Park and Southern Hills Mall, hasn't been repainted since its construction in the mid-1990s. It would be the first to sport a city-funded painting design.
A panel comprised of Capron, city staff and private residents selected the idea to use a reference to "Sioux City Sue" as a nod to the "singing" in "Singing Hills," the name of the corridor where the tank resides. It's meant to be an eye-catching and distinctive feature for passersby to notice.
The 1945 tune by Dick Thomas and Ray Freedman is a slice of local history in that it put Sioux City on the map for some out-of-towners. The song was performed by several famous musicians, including Gene Autry in a 1946 movie of the same title.
When the council discussed the design in mid-November, some balked after learning that adding a design in addition to the basic coat of paint could add between $20,000 and $30,000 to the price tag. In response, Capron volunteered to begin raising that amount of money to fund the design and the fees for the permissions to "Sioux City Sue" without using city dollars.
Capron said Friday that the lower-than-expected bid may render a fundraising push unnecessary.
"It came so far under that I don't think I need to do the fundraising," she said, but added she is willing to proceed with the fundraising if the council so desires.
Water plant superintendent Brad Puetz said he wasn't sure why the bids came in so low. All but one of the seven bids the city received for the project came in below the engineer's estimate. Puetz said the city is familiar with the company, which also painted the elevated tank in Morningside.
If all moves according to schedule, the work could be completed by mid-October of this year.