Tuesday, June 30, 2020

FTK. For The Kids. As Dance Marathon, we preach and yell this at the top of our lungs any chance we get. We want it to be known that we are for the kids, but we are also for the families. It’s important to us that no kiddo, or family is forgotten or left behind. Each and every family is important to us in their own special way, and that’s exactly what makes each family so great. Dance Marathon represents three very important families; active, forever, and DIH.

An active family is when a kiddo is currently going through treatment or is less than five years off of treatment. Carly Witherell, this year’s Family Liaison Director said, “These children know the names of their chemo, instead of their classmates. Nurses and doctors become a part of their family. Whether they spend weeks in the hospital at times or have to stay home to protect their health, these kids are losing precious moments of their lives. Whether it be volunteering on the 11th floor or providing gift cards every week, it is so important to be present as a source of financial and emotional support in such a dark time of our families lives.”

These kiddos are going through something that no one should ever have to go through, and it is such a scary time for them as well as their families. Actively going through treatment is not only painful for the kids but also for the families watching their child or sibling go through that kind of pain. These are the kids at the hospital who sometimes have dance marathon participants as their only visitors, and it’s important to us to have volunteers go visit them to cheer them up in any way that we are able to.

After being off of treatment for five years, the families turn into our forever families. When asked about forever families, Witherell said, “While our families are now navigating their lives post-treatment, it is important to recognize their child's journey as well as provide continued support for these families. Even though it may seem like their fight is finished, a lot of our families live in constant fear of a relapse or face side effects from treatment. A cancer diagnosis can change everything from financial situations to family dynamics. These changes don't just fade away when the port comes out or the chemo stops. It is important to recognize that this is each family’s new normal and by continually providing for them, we show our everlasting love.” These kiddos have done the most amazing thing, they beat cancer! But that does not change what they went through and how it will impact the rest of their lives. Things can change in an instant and these families know that, but we also want them to know they have the support from Dance Marathon for years and years to come.

The last families we support are the families that have endured the unfathomable pain of losing a child to cancer, these are our Dancing In our Hearts families, or DIH. “It is important to continue to recognize this type of family because of the way each kiddo lived their lives and by the legacies they left behind on all of us. Cancer has taken the lives of these children much too soon, but it will never take them from our hearts. It cannot erase the memories of each day they were with us, and it cannot stop the love we have for each of them,” said Witherell. These kiddos will be forever in our hearts, dancing with us and never forgotten.

Each one of these families is equally important to us. With everything going on in the world right now, there is so much uncertainty, but one thing that doesn’t waiver, is the love and support we have for all our families. Cancer doesn’t quit and neither do we. Dance marathon is fighting for each of these families 24/7, 365 days a year. Our hope is that each of these families are heard and never forgotten. FTK always.

By: Sarah Schminke, Public Relations Committee, DM 27