By Alaina King
Mickey Deputy had open heart surgery when she was 10 months old and was diagnosed with leukemia at age seven.
Riley Lesh was born 15 weeks premature, spent 90 days in the NICU, and had a benign tumor removed from her shoulder.
Between six months and a year old, Ella McBride stopped growing, had heart failure, and an auto kidney transplant.
Although these stories are unique, these girls had one thing in common: being treated at Riley Children’s Hospital.
“Riley families are all wonderful and I am lucky to work with them. They inspire me to do more and I enjoy coming to work to see the 2,000 patients served by Riley,” said Regional Communications Coordinator Kate Burnett.
Along with treating children medically, Riley Children’s Hospital significantly supports families.
“Riley is a very loving and caring place. The doctors and nurses truly care about the well being of the children,” said Angela McBride, Ella’s mother. “We definitely have made some life long friendships with some of the doctors and nurses there. It’s not just a job to them, it is caring and giving the best medical treatment that they can to the kids.”
Riley Children’s Hospital is known for it’s ability to make families feel comfortable despite their situation.
“Riley is important to me because it is so comforting to know the services are there for families regardless of their situation. Riley is very family-centered, the teams focus on the family and patient to make them feel at home,” said Burnett.
An additional committee was added to Dance Marathon this year.
“New to Dance Marathon this year was the Riley Relations Committee. We decided that in order for FCDM to be able to seek out and invite enough Riley families back every year and take care of them well during the night of, we would need a committee,” said senior and executive Riley Relations member Chad Lawrence.
The Benge, McBride, Stout, and Deputy families shared their stories on stage at Dance Marathon on Saturday.
“One goal we had this year is that the Riley Families who speak at our marathon receive such a warm welcome from FC students and feel undeniably loved,” said Lawrence.
A Riley Family Zone was incorporated in the gym to encourage students to interact with the families.
“I was blown away by the receptiveness of the students towards the families, ” said Lawrence.
The Riley Family Zone also made the families more accessible for attendees of Dance Marathon.
“I think the tent helped all dancers and committee members find the Riley families easier. There were multiple times I walked by seeing first time dancers talking to the families and I think that says a lot about how successful the tent was,” said junior and Riley Relations committee member Kylie Wheeler.
Dance Marathons have become an important part for many Riley families.
“Dance Marathon is an integral part of our family life, almost like a sport. Because of it, our daughter, Riley has a lot of confidence. She’s comfortable speaking in front of thousands of people, she’s comfortable in new places, and she’s already scoping for a college that has a large Dance Marathon program,” said Julie Lesh.
Some families utilize Dance Marathon to speak to other Riley families.
“We mainly stay connected with other Riley families through Dance Marathons. Each Dance Marathon is like a mini family reunion,” said Jenny Deputy, Mickey’s mother.
This year’s Dance Marathon raised $94,867.62 for Riley Children’s Hospital. Fifty percent of the money raised from Dance Marathon goes toward cancer research, and the other fifty percent goes to the general benefit fund.
“The money raised at the dance marathons help so many families and several different areas at Riley such as cancer research and supporting the Child Life Specialists. A Child Life Specialist helps prepare a child before a procedure or surgery. They give them an idea of what the room will look like and they truly help put the child’s minds at ease,” said McBride. “We love dance marathons for what they give back and that is why we share our story.
Dance marathons affect families beyond financial means.
“Financially, Dance Marathon helps fund programs at Riley, which truly saves lives. However, the impact FC has on Riley families is far less tangible than an amount of money fund-raised. Our marathon has encouraged, uplifted, and given deserved recognition to dozens of people ad families throughout our community,” said Lawrence. “Dance Marathon does not simply exist to fund a hospital far away that very few of us will ever see; Dance Marathon exists to support our community and the families within it who have fought for the life of a loved one. We do not just raise money, we raise hope. This is why our Dance Marathon and others around the state are so important to Riley families.”