Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My Little Heroes

It seems strange to think about children who have to fight for their lives.  We think about kids as the epitome of life itself - full of energy, questions, and hope.  Unfortunately, not every kid is so lucky.

When I was in college, I had a crazy passion for a student organization called Dance Marathon.  DM is a year-long effort to raise money to help the kids in the pediatric oncology (kids' cancer) unit at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.  Much of the money raised by the organization goes to research efforts to put an end to this terrible disease.  Most of the money, however, goes towards directly helping the families that have fallen in its shadow.  Families receive care packages with parking vouchers, restaurant gift cards, and toiletry items.  Rooms are stocked with things to keep the kids entertained during their (sometimes very long) stays at the hospitals - including books, TVs, game systems, toys, coloring books, etc.  Perhaps most importantly, DM sends volunteers into the unit on a daily basis to help provide a support system to these families when they need it the most.  The organization puts on an event every February where participants who have raised at least $400 come to show their support for our kiddos.  The event is a 24-hour Dance Marathon, where participants do not sit, sleep, or consume caffeine to show that they are fighting right along with the kids.  It's an incredible event - full of laughter and tears, and, of course, plenty of dancing.  It is quite possibly my favorite 24 hours of the year, and every bit of it is "FTK" - for the kids.

These children are the bravest fighters.  They face countless painful treatments and procedures, days on end in a hospital bed, time away from family and friends, and a loss of normalcy, yet they never seem to lose that smile or that hope.  When I hear their stories, all I can think is "It's not fair."  When they tell their stories, they laugh and joke and inform us of how they will beat this evil cancer.  They are my heroes, and they have taught me so much about life and how to live it.  Today, I got some bad news about two kiddos very close to my heart.  I ask you to keep all of the kids and families who have to go through this in your thoughts and prayers.  I don't think I know anyone who deserves or needs it more.

Today, I just wanted to give a little shout out to a few of these fighters.
Addison - Your bravery inspires me every day.  You keep fighting, we'll keep praying.
Kirsten - You did it!  You kicked cancer and I could not be more happy for you!  I'm sorry your hair did not grow back pink as you had hoped, but I cannot even tell you how good it is to see your happy, smiling, healthy little face.
Connor - You're a trooper, dude.  And such a stud, too.  Stay strong, stay healthy, stay awesome.
Faith - Oh honey, you broke my heart today.  The battles never seem to end for you.  Know that my prayers are always with you and your family.  We all love you.
Dax - I never had the chance to meet you, but I do miss you.  Thank you for inspiring us all with your story.  Rest in peace sweet baby.
Dillyn - You never gave up, and taught me to do the same.  Thank you.

Last year, DM raised $1,529,650.19, bringing their 19 year total to over $12.7 million.  I'd love to encourage anyone who is interested to visit the University of Iowa Dance Marathon's website: www.dancemarathon.org


  1. The Bowling Green State University Dance Marathon was awarded money by Project for Awesome this year: http://projectforawesome.tumblr.com/. The video they created for PfA was the first time I heard of this event. Many of my students were touched by the video, and I thought you might enjoy it, too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2qqKFLSCgs

    Thank you for sharing your passion and for the love you show to those kids.

  2. What a great cause. These little ones are lucky to have you in their life spreading the word. Thank you for sharing bits of their stories and your words to them were precious.

  3. What an amazing cause to h ave been a part of. And thank you for sharing stories of some of these courageous children, it is hard to even try to imagine what it be like to spend ones childhood in and out of hospitals and undergoing procedure after procedure. And, of course, there are the families - for which you also provide much needed support. These children are in my prayers.

  4. What an awesome organization! Thank you for being their support! I have known more adults touched by cancer than children...no matter who though, they always need support and love! This is a wonderful way to do that! Thanks for sharing!

  5. WOW, what an amazing organization that makes a difference! I have a few quiestions twirling around my head as I reflect on the $$ made for pediatric cancer. Is this a national organization? Are there other groups? I'm thinking this is a huge wonderful fundraising idea!@

    1. Anita, I'd be happy to answer any questions you have! It is a national organization with groups at many colleges throughout the US. The money always goes to Children's Miracle Network hospitals, though the exact recipient is dependent on the location of the college. Feel free to email me at jilliannmagee@gmail.com if you have more questions I can answer! :)

  6. I am so glad you shared your story. What a wonderful organization and a very important one too. I loved the end of your post where you gave a shout out to the kids. The love you feel for them shines brightly!

  7. Reading your post tonight breaks my heart. I feel so badly for those kids, and also for those families, who are faced with such ginormous and seemingly never ending challenges. How fortunate they are to have organizations like your dance marathon to provide supplies and materials that make their lives just a little easier. I know they hugely appreciate all of you!

  8. Wonderful slice. I felt your love and compassion in every word. I was impressed by they way both family and individuals were supported.

  9. I have tears in my eyes. What a wonderful project! You have taken it on so personally, too, with the individual shout outs. I'm sure the children and their parents are forever grateful for your presence and your drive to promote this organization.

  10. It is amazing the courage kids can show. Your words capture the determination and the anguish.