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