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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."

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Food and Lifestyles reporter

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