Monday, July 6, 2020

When a child is diagnosed with cancer, it never stops with them. Cancer is a challenge fought by the child, the parents, the siblings, and others close to the family. UIDM’s Family Representative team understands the impact cancer can have on all members of the family and therefore works to build relationships with and serve not only the child undergoing treatment, but the siblings and parents too. Most people who’ve heard of or helped with Dance Marathon know of the great fundraising we do, as pictures of the tote board cover social media at the end of the year, but there are so many other amazing opportunities we get to serve our 1,078 families. Some of these opportunities include the Family Representative program, Family Events, and Sibling Support.

 With 1,078 families varying from Active, to Dancing in our Hearts, to Forever Families, so many dancers and leadership members get the bonus role of being a family rep. “The Family Rep Program fosters one on one relationships between Dance Marathon students and families. Through regular support with their student representative, families stay up to date on everything DM while receiving emotional support through regular contact. We encourage Family Reps to build connections with each family member as they grow closer” (Elizabeth Johnson and Megan Wadle UIDM Family Representative Co-Chairs). These connections that are built are perfect for when Family Events roll around. Family Events are held all throughout the year including Fun City, Camp Wapsie, Bloomsbury Farm, and so many others. They’re events in which kids aren’t seen as the ones constantly in and out of the hospital. For a day they’re just kids running around with each other, playing with the DM dancers/family reps, and building friendships bonded through Dance Marathon. As for parents, Family Events are also a day to be with other parents who understand their story.

With the chaos of battling cancer or having a child battle cancer, sometimes the siblings don’t receive all the support they need, but as mentioned before, Family Representatives understand that cancer is a battle fought by the WHOLE family, including siblings. That’s why FR makes sure to designate the needed funds and attention to the siblings specifically. All members of the family are invited to family events, DM funds sibling support groups in Stead Family Children’s Hospital, hospital play times often include the siblings, and a sibling panel at the Big Event serves as a way to highlight the sibling's stories as they share their perspective on the cancer journey.

The Family Representative team focus on making Dance Marathon more than the tote board. Yes, Dance Marathon works so hard to fundraise so we have the money to fund the research, the family support, the events, but we are so much more than just a fundraiser. As seen with the Dancing in our Hearts and Forever Families, when the funding is no longer needed, the regular contact by the Family Rep program is one way we can ensure to keep Dance Marathon remains connected to these amazing families after their hospital stays are complete. There is a whole community built through UIDM. The FR team cultivates ways for people to connect. Whether they’re the child, the sibling, the parent, or a dancer, we all get to be connected by UIDM. Sometimes the friendships, support system, and memories created through this community, the intangible gifts, can be the best things received from one of life’s greatest challenges.  

By: Makenna Mumm, Public Relations Committee, DM 27