Young boy leaves his legacy in Dance Marathon and the world

At 5 and a half years old, Dashiell Maccabee Codd was taken from the world, but today, his story lives on and continues to help millions of people struggling to battle cancer.


Ezazul Haque

Portrait of the Cold family in Hubbard Commons of IMU taken at 4:30 PM at Hubbard Common of IMU.

Alexandra Skores, News Reporter

“Mommy, I want to be a little boy forever.”

Christmas 2012 brought one lasting memory for Pam Codd and her family as 5-year-old son Dashiell Maccabee Codd hugged her close with his brand-new teddy bear. All he had wanted for Christmas that year was a teddy bear, Codd said, and her son’s sweet, innocent smile was one she will never forget.

Dashiell only attended Dance Marathon 19’s Big Event, Codd said. His family has attended since his passing, and they will continue to go to every Big Event, to carry large signs with Dashiell’s face, to tote confetti blasters — a part of the journey that used to embarrass his two brothers, Orson and Sumner, who have since grown to love every second — and to be filled with excitement to share Dashiell’s story with Dance Marathon.

“Dance Marathon is soul-shaking in the best way possible,” Codd said. “It’s a celebration — for the kiddos who are still here, the kiddos who are in remission — but also a celebration for the kiddos like my boy, who is not here to dance but still can sense that energy through the universe to lift him up.”

The Codd family will continue their tradition of going to Dance Marathon this year for the Big Event’s 25th year. Following last year’s fundraising success, with dancers raising more than $3 million, this year’s Big Event is focusing more on accessibility, with wheelchair ramps and an accommodations room.

Every year, the Codd family covered the snacks for the Big Event, and every year, “Big D” asked for blow pops, Codd said. The DJ has performed at the Big Event since the first year of Dance Marathon, and he will do so this year for the last time.

This year, the Codd family will give blow pop charms, similar to the beads of bravery the children receive for every treatment they endure, Codd said.

Sumner will perform “Stay,” by Post Malone at the Big Event in honor of his brother this year as well.

During summer 2011, Codd said, Dashiell refused to go to the store with her because he wanted to wear a costume. Frustrated and trying to finish running errands, Codd told her son there was no need for a costume at the grocery store.

“Mommy, every day is a good day for a costume,” Dashiell said.

Since the Codd family first appeared in the family grand entrance at Dance Marathon 19, Codd recalled the costumes of everyone in the crowd. At that moment, she knew Dance Marathon would remain with her family forever.

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In 2012, Dashiell was diagnosed with a cancerous liver tumor called hepatoblastoma. He eventually had to receive a liver transplant.

As Dashiell underwent surgeries and chemotherapies, Kathy Whiteside, a UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital child life specialist, said his delicate and sweet personality was something she will always remember.

“Every time he would have to undergo something painful or difficult, whether it was a needle or anything else, he would always say ‘thank you’ to the staff,” she said.

The Codd family learned later that, after Dashiell’s transplant, the cancer had metastasized to his lungs. Codd said doctors then discovered he did not have hepatoblastoma but transitional liver cell tumor.

There was no cure for the tumor. Doctors said he had six months left to live.

Toward the end of Dashiell’s life, the Codds remained strong and knew they had to be there for their son, Children’s Hospital advanced nurse practitioner Mary Schlapkohl said.

Dashiell died on June 17, 2013, at 5 years old.

“This is an incredible family,” she said. “As people and as parents, Brian and Pam were incredible advocates for Dashiell and continue to honor his legacy — and I think all of us will continue to honor his legacy, as well.”

Dance Marathon has remained a large part of the Codd family’s story, Codd said, and they have a special place in their hearts for the organization.

“I knew that with what my sons were going to go through, there were things that my husband and I couldn’t do for them,” she said. “Dance Marathon is filled with people who can relate to the things that they would be going through in their lives. We sat back as a family and decided how we would want to honor Dashiell.”

The Codds were not expecting their world to come crashing down when Dashiell died, Codd said, but the journey ended with a loving part of the Dance Marathon community.

“We didn’t expect it,” Pam said. “But thank God, in the face of all of that tragedy, we are given an opportunity to connect with people and an organization that is able to let Dashiell live on.”