Dancing for Jeffery

Dancing for ten straight hours may sound exhausting, but so does getting stuck with needles everyday. With the St. Ambrose University Dance Marathon only a month and a half away, morale captain Otto Linderman is looking forward to the big event. Linderman and the dance marathon staff only have 43 days left to fundraise and plan for the ten-hour event.

Linderman, senior, says he has never felt this passionate about something before. Dance Marathon has completely changed his perspective on everyday life.

“Dance Marathon means the absolute world to me,” Linderman said. “This event is extremely important to me, not only because I want to dance for the kids, but also for my little cousin.”

Four years ago Linderman’s 11-year-old cousin Jeffery Penkala lost his courageous battle to cancer. Penkala was told he only had two months to live, but the young child fought for 11 months. He had to face some of the most terrifying things in the world as he was told he would not live much longer.

“I dance for Jeffery and everything he went through,” Linderman said. “I want to celebrate his life, and what better way to do so then to join Dance Marathon.”

Throughout Penkala’s battle he never lost his smile no matter how much pain he was in. The day his mother told him he only had two months to live he looked her in the eyes and said, “Mom, it will be okay. I am going to win.”

Penkala was a believer and nothing was going to stop him. With 26 tumors throughout his body, Penkala found a way to fight back and live an extra few months just to prove the doctors wrong. However, the deadly disease was fighting back more rapidly than ever. Penkala could smile from ear-to-ear, but a miracle needed to happen to save his life.

“He constantly was smiling, believing and fighting,” Linderman said. “He is forever my little solider and everything I do in Dance Marathon is for him.”

Penkala passed away on Oct. 26, 2010. Linderman says his body may be gone but his spirit and smile will live on forever.

Linderman has a reason behind his Dance Marathon madness. He wants to make the life amazing for the young children that fight for their lives everyday.

Linderman joined the Dance Marathon group last year when he joined a team and put in several hours of dancing. He knew this year he wanted to become an even bigger part of the SAU Dance Marathon event. And he has done just that.

Being a morale captain means a lot of hard work and dedication throughout the school year. But if Penkala could fight for eleven months, Linderman felt he could sacrifice a busy schedule for a year.

Planning the big event is not something that can be done by one individual in just a couple days. Therefore, the SAU Dance Marathon assigns a handful of students to be considered the morale captains. Linderman believes that becoming a morale captain is one of the most rewarding things he has ever done.

“Being a morale captain means more to me then just lots of hard work. It means my job is to keep the party going and to keep the money coming,” Linderman said.

His goals are set high for both himself and his team. He believes that no goal is too high when trying to save lives.

Linderman’s team is the second biggest team on the list for this year’s big event. He has constantly been getting more students involved. When trying to get more people to join, Linderman tells his story about his 11-year-old soldier. Linderman hopes that his story inspires others to dance.

The SAU Dance Marathon is looking to raise $60,000 this year. However, Linderman says the morale captains are hoping for an even bigger and better result.

“We are dreamers, so that’s what we do,” he said.

Linderman knows that Penkala will not benefit from this money, but he does know that he is so grateful for what dance marathon is doing. Even if an individual raises $5, it’s a bonus in Linderman’s eyes. Every dollar will help save a child’s life. Everyone is welcome to attend the event on April 5 from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m.

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