By: Byron Hoskinson – Staff Writer
While 300 University of Dayton students danced from morning to night, 15 children and young adults took center stage in the RecPlex basketball court on Saturday, Nov. 9 to recount their experiences with Dayton Children’s Medical Center, as part of the 15th Annual UD Dance Marathon.
Dance Marathon seeks to raise funds for Dayton’s pediatric hospital by asking students to collect donations for the hospital and stay active during the entire 15-hour event, according to Dayton Children’s website.
UDDM co-presidents Melanie Grodecki, a senior education major, and Laura Karn, a senior psychology major, said this year’s goal was to raise $60,000. When UDDM officially ended its 15th hour of dancing at 1 a.m., the donations totaled $55,076.80, a record high for the marathon.
Grodecki compared this year to previous ones, saying UDDM 2012 raised $51,000 in 12 hours and UDDM 1998, the marathon’s first year, raised $12,000 in a 28-hour period.
“Each year the amount we raise has increased. We hope the fundraising continues to grow by larger increments each time,” Grodecki said.
Karn said UDDM is the final part of a series of campus fundraising events held throughout the year and also part of a larger movement that features dance marathons held across the country to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The Miracle Network is a non-profit organization that incorporates some 170 children’s hospitals, according to the organization’s website.
Karn said the Children’s Miracle Network slogan,“Stand For Those Who Can’t” inspired this year’s motto of “Too Legit To Sit,” which was meant to encourage participants to stay on their feet for the full 15 hours of the marathon.
Kayleigh Crabtree, 11, was one of the younger speakers of the night. In August 2010, at the age of 8, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and spent the next three years in and out of Dayton Children’s, finishing her treatment on Oct. 30, 2012.
An aspiring Flyer, she said this year was her third dance marathon and said she intends to return for as long as the event is held.
“Dance has helped to relieve my pain and it lets out all the feelings and hurt from what I went through,” she said.
Crabtree said she knew many of the people at UDDM. In addition to her family, she named several friends with whom she had formed a dance team. Crabtree said after she presented her story to the assembly, the team led the crowd in moving to Katy Perry’s “Roar.”
Justice Thomas, another speaker, said she has been attending UDDM for nine years. Thomas, a freshman nursing major at Sinclair Community College, said she was born three months premature with stomach ulcers and was consequently hospitalized. In 2005, she said she was readmitted for continued ulcers and associated complications.
Two years later, she was selected as one of four ambassadors to Dayton Children’s. She said the year-long position entailed traveling to various events across the nation in an effort to raise money for the hospital. Thomas said, since leaving her ambassadorship, she volunteered more than 600 hours at Dayton Children’s before taking a job there as a nursing assistant.
She said she is motivated to “give back to Dayton Children’s what they gave to me,” by working as a pediatric nurse at the hospital.
Another former ambassador who shared her story, eighth grader Bailey Allen, discussed living with infantile fibrosarcoma, a cancerous tumor.
“I had to have surgery on my foot that removed part of my toe, and two surgeries on my chest. After nine months’ worth of chemo, I was cancer free,” she said.
Allen told a story about when her condition led her to go to the emergency room for a fever. She said the hospital staff “treats you like family. They take care of you the way you need to be taken care of.”
Allen said she wants to pursue a career in medicine, either in sports medicine or oncology.
“I would love to be able to go back to children’s hospitals and that would be my way of trying to repay what they did for me,” she said.
The next Dayton Children’s fundraiser will be a Dance Marathon at Wright State University on Nov. 16, according to the hospital’s website.