Celebrating the end of a long journey


Dance Marathon kid Jordyn Gourley receives her Graduation Diploma during hour 20. (The Daily Iowan/Alex Kroeze)

By Naomi Hofferber

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This year saw 20 Dance Marathon graduates — kids who have been cancer-free for five years.

Raphael Hirsch, the physician-in-chief for the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital gave an opening statement for the ceremony in the IMU Main Ballroom on Saturday.

“The energy in this room is phenomenal; the dancing, the singing, the music — the whole building is shaking,” Hirsch said. “If you peel all of that away, the reason all of you have been here for the past twenty-four hours is the children and families here have taken a really long journey.

“It’s not a journey that any of them asked for, it’s not a journey that they wished to take, it sure is not a journey they would’ve wished on anyone, but it’s a journey they had to take and have taken with bravery and stoicism.”

Ages of the graduates ranged from six to 20. They proceeded across the stage and received certificates of the Dance Marathon graduation.

“Today we recognize twenty graduates,” Abby Powell, Dance Marathon Family director, said. “These individuals have been a part of our Dance Marathon family since diagnosis, and throughout their treatment. Today, we join them in celebrating this important milestone.”

Arun Modi, a pediatric oncologist, also spoke at the ceremony, and said this was the first graduation event he has ever attended.

“I feel like this is the best graduation I could ever attend in my life. I don’t see this as a graduation, I see this as a parade of 20 victorious soldiers who did not pick the fight but won,” Modi said. “Childhood cancer is rare; no family thinks about it, prepares for it, or has any idea how to deal with it.”

Modi said while cancer affects families for the rest of their lives, and days of treatment can seem endless, it can be overcome.

“Ultimately, you made your mark on our lives with the resilience you’ve showed through this journey,” he said. “You gave us hope with a smile and courage to work hard to find a cure for cancer. You selflessly participated in clinical trials and helped us improve treatment for future generations. You didn’t do it alone — you came together as a big family, helping other families who had to walk down the same path you walked down, and you took care of each other like family.”

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