For the Kids

For the Kids

From Chicken Soup for the College Soul

For the Kids

A little boy smiled as he played within an octopus of tubes and electrodes that measured his every breath and all his vital signs. He looked up and said, “My IV is out,” sending a student scurrying down the hall to the nurse’s station. A little girl in a room down the hall lay quiet in her bed. Her tiny bald head peered through the hospital rails at the visiting students. “I have cancer,” she whispered. “I can spell it for you.”

In addition to their illnesses, the children in this hospital had one more thing in common: the need for medical supplies and services that their insurance companies would not cover. That afternoon, a routine tour of the hospital for thirteen college students became a year-long project as we realized these kids needed more than our visits.

We called ourselves the “Dream Team.” Working with Children’s Miracle Network, we spent the next year planning a thirty-two-hour dance marathon that would raise the money. In the face of the courage and energy shown by these kids, no one could see thirty-two hours of nonstop dancing as too much of a task. We had no problem collecting over three hundred student volunteers to plan the event. “Thon” fever had exploded on the campus and in the community. Our goal was five thousand dollars, and we were sure we would meet it.

Each sorority, fraternity, residence hall and student organization “adopted” the family of a sick child. The families were embraced by the campus on almost monthly visits to football games, chapter meetings and dinners in the cafeteria. The students followed their child’s health, wrote cards and made frequent trips to the hospital. The children were given love and the hope that they might be able to go to college themselves one day. Students stood at intersections in minus-forty-degree wind chill, collecting spare change. Faculty and staff donated a dollar every Friday for “Dress Down for the Kids Day,” and other donations poured in as the event drew closer.

A week before the dance marathon began, an urgent plea came from one of the families. Their twin boys had leukemia, and one needed a bone-marrow transplant. A donor had to be found, but the process for finding a match was painful and costly. Students by the hundreds stood in line and paid twenty-five dollars each to have their blood sampled. No donors were found.

The marathon began at 10:00 A.M. on a cold Saturday morning. Over a hundred dancers filed into the recreation center, now transformed into a playground of games, music and food. Little kids were everywhere, some in wheelchairs, some wheeling IVs around, some with only a tiny layer of fuzzy hair on their heads. Dancers whirled by in T-shirts that said, “I’m dancing for Kristen.” Morale volunteers brought candy and gave foot massages as the night wore on.

At the thirty-first hour, the families assembled on stage to tell their stories. Some had children who were too sick to attend, some had lost children only days before. A four-year-old clutched the microphone and stood on tiptoe to say, “Thank you for raising money to save my life.”

Then the parents of the twin boys took the stage, alone and holding hands by the microphone. The room fell silent. Exhausted dancers stood up straight. Into the hushed room the parents said, “Tonight we are here alone because our son is getting ready to go into surgery tomorrow morning. Earlier today a bone-marrow donor was found.” Then they could no longer speak. With tears streaming down their cheeks, they mouthed the words “Thank you.”

Then a group of students assembled on stage holding pieces of posterboard, each with a number painted on it. Slowly they held them up to reveal the total amount that the Dream Team had raised: $45,476.17. The crowd went wild, dancers started running around the floor and families were crying. Everyone knew it had been thirty-two hours of miracles.

Diana Breclaw

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