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Group brings Dance Marathon to the kids at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital

For kids unable to make it Dance Marathon’s Big Event, Dance Marathon brings the Big Event to the kids in the UI Stead Family Children's Hospital.

Patients+and+volunteers+do+the+%27Hawkeye+Wave%27+in+the+University+of+Iowa+Stead+Family+Children%27s+Hospital+during+Dance+Marathon+25+on+Saturday%2C+Feb.+2%2C+2019.+%28Shivansh+Ahuja%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
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Group brings Dance Marathon to the kids at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital

Patients and volunteers do the 'Hawkeye Wave' in the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital during Dance Marathon 25 on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. (Shivansh Ahuja/The Daily Iowan)

Patients and volunteers do the 'Hawkeye Wave' in the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital during Dance Marathon 25 on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. (Shivansh Ahuja/The Daily Iowan)

Shivansh Ahuja

Patients and volunteers do the 'Hawkeye Wave' in the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital during Dance Marathon 25 on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. (Shivansh Ahuja/The Daily Iowan)

Shivansh Ahuja

Shivansh Ahuja

Patients and volunteers do the 'Hawkeye Wave' in the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital during Dance Marathon 25 on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. (Shivansh Ahuja/The Daily Iowan)

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

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For some children affected by pediatric cancer, attending University of Iowa Dance Marathon’s Big Event is not possible due to a weakened immune system or other medical issues. For these kids and their families, Dance Marathon’s hospital committee throws a mini-Dance Marathon during the Big Event, complete with a DJ and plenty of glitter.

Kids decorated cookies, completed arts-and-crafts projects, and had a visit from Herky and Perky, the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital mascot.

Shivansh Ahuja
Patients and their families, along with volunteers, celebrate Dance Marathon 25 at the University of Iowa Stead Children’s Hospital on Feb. 2.

This year’s event also included the introduction of a wave between dancers at the IMU and kids and families at the Children’s Hospital over Skype.  

“It’s something exciting and new that is revamped this year,” Dance Marathon hospital co-chair Lauren Vasilakos said. “… It’ll be kind of like mimicking the Wave just to show the kids how much support and love they have here at the IMU.” 

Vasilakos said Dance Marathon holds inpatient programming throughout the year to support families in the hospital.

“We have lifelong connections with [the kids]. It’s so fun to see them grow up and come to our parties weekly or come craft with us. It’s really special to make those connections,” Vasilakos said.

Shivansh Ahuja
Patients and their families, along with volunteers, celebrate Dance Marathon 25 at the University of Iowa Stead Children’s Hospital on Feb. 2.

Gillian Fiandaca, a member of Dance Marathon’s Executive Council, said support from hospital volunteers goes beyond fundraising.

“Dance Marathon is huge for fundraising, but emotional support is huge for families in inpatient also,” Fiandaca said.

Support from the hospital committee extends to families who have lost children to cancer as well. Fiandaca said the “Dancing in our Hearts” luncheon, as well as the graduation ceremony for children in remission, are the other top priorities alongside the mini-Dance Marathon.

 

Shivansh Ahuja
Patients and their families, along with volunteers, celebrate Dance Marathon 25 at the University of Iowa Stead Children’s Hospital on Feb. 2.

“We are one big army supporting [families] always … families who have a child who have passed away from cancer,” Fiandaca said. “Cancer will never win. The child always wins, because they leave such a lasting mark on our organization.”

RELATED: Horne family values continued support from Dance Marathon

For April Drew, whose daughter Isabel is a patient at the Children’s Hospital, Dance Marathon has provided support to the family.

“We got connected with [Dance Marathon] almost right away after Isabel was diagnosed,” Drew said. “She looks for their green shirts in the hallway whenever she’s here. She just loves having someone to come play with her, and it’s made our stays a lot nicer.”

Shivansh Ahuja
Patients and their families, along with volunteers, celebrate Dance Marathon 25 at the University of Iowa Stead Children’s Hospital on Feb. 2.

Isabel was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in March 2017. She and her family attended the Big Event in 2018, but the Drews were unable to attend this year because Isabel’s immune system has been compromised after a bone-marrow transplant.

“[Isabel’s] got plenty of friends; some of them have already graduated, some are here still,” Drew said. “She’s always looking to make new friends. Last year, she grabbed someone of the freshman dancers and made them play hide and seek with her.”

Shivansh Ahuja
Patients and their families, along with volunteers, celebrate Dance Marathon 25 at the University of Iowa Stead Children’s Hospital on Feb. 2.

Drew hopes her family will eventually be able to attend Dance Marathon events at Adventureland when Isabel’s immune system is stronger.

“We’re big supporters of Dance Marathon,” Drew said. “We think they’re wonderful.”

Olivia Trevino, a student child-life specialist assistant, said events such as these can make life a little easier for kids in the hospital.

“For the families to come to a party to play — it shows the kids that the hospital isn’t such a scary place,” Trevino said. “They can just come and be silly and have fun, and they don’t have to think about their IV pull or any of that stuff.”

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