Dance Marathon 25 endows $2.2 million to child life specialist

Dance Marathon 25 allocates $2.2 million to support a child life specialist in the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital.


The Daily Iowan; Photos by James

Dancers on the stage motivate the crowd at Dance Marathon in the Iowa Memorial Union on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. (James Year/The Daily Iowan)

Alexandra Skores, News Reporter

UI Dance Marathon 25 has announced it will fund a $2.2 million endowment to the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital to hire a child life specialist.

Child life specialists work with children and families at the Stead Hospital to make their stay as easy as it can be, Dance Marathon 25 Executive Director Charlie Ellis said.

“Child life specialists at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital play an important role in our patients’ care teams — working with children individually and in group settings to help patients and families cope with the health-care experience in a positive way,” Ellis said.

He stressed the importance of child life specialists, who provide support during medical procedures, coordinate group art activities and games, and assist with school re-entry.

“As UI Dance Marathon endowed the child life specialist position on Level 11, we will now be funding that specific position’s salary,” Ellis said. “This in turn then allows for the hospital to no longer need to fund that position and then hire more child life specialists on floors that do not currently have any. This is so ‘impactful’ due to the fact that all kiddos need a child life specialist yet cannot have that. It is an honor to be able to provide that source of smiles through this allocation.”

He stressed that the child life specialist is the sixth large project that Dance Marathon has funded.

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The organization has also put large sums of money towards three TESLA MRI machines, the Dance Marathon Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Research Laboratory, a Dance Marathon Endowed Professor/Chair position, the Dance Marathon pediatric cancer targeted therapies program, and the Dance Marathon Pediatric Cancer Center, which is located on the 11th floor of the Stead Hospital.

“These contributions depend on what the hospital as well as what our kiddos and families need,” Ellis said. “In order to fulfill asks such as these, we are first presented with a project from this hospital as [officials] know what is necessary at the time. As long as [Dance Marathon] continues to raise money, we will be able to continue providing services.”

He hopes the Dance Marathon community will remain close with the hospital in the future, he said.

“I am honored to be a part of this experience and the services that Dance Marathon is able to provide for these families,” said Aleisha Norton, executive event director. “As long as Dance Marathon continues to raise funds, it will still be able to provide the essential services that it does.”

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A lot of the funding Dance Marathon does in partnership with Stead is special because it allows the group to “shape its impact.”

Gillian Fiandaca, the Dance Marathon hospital director, said she has had the privilege of working with great child life specialists to bring lots of smiles to children and their families.

“This allocation truly will impact the lives of the patients on Level 11 so much more than I can put into words,” she said. “It will allow for more play interventions, more emotional support, and more hope in the Stead Family Children’s Hospital.”

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