By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT – After a very successful dance marathon in which the St. Ambrose University Dance Marathon group more than tripled its goal, the group received a national award for its efforts.
Amanda McClure, executive director of the university’s dance marathon, and Mary Scheck, morale director, accepted the “Best New Dance Marathon” award for 2012-13 during a National Dance Marathon Leadership Conference in Salt Lake City last month.
St. Ambrose was a national winner based on its fundraising total, student body participation and Children’s Miracle Network family involvement.
McClure said the April 6 event raised $47,000, well above their goal of $15,000. In addition, they raised about $1,000 through other efforts. A four-hour preview event was held in April 2012.
Abby Cassens, public relations and marketing director, said different parts of the executive committee have responsibilities at different times of the year. But work is being done year-round in preparation for the next dance marathon — which is set for April 5, 2014.
The dance marathon group raises money for the Children’s Miracle Network, which helps children at the University of Iowa’s Children’s Hospital, and also teams up with Quad-City-area families helped by Children’s Miracle Network.
One family that has benefited from the dance marathon is the Dalaska family of Port Byron, Ill.
Patty Ernst-Dalaska is a 2004 graduate of St. Ambrose’s ACCEL program. Her son, Carson, now 8, was diagnosed with tracheomyalcia and a stage one stenosis of the airway at age 6. His throat had swollen and x-rays showed significant narrowing of his trachea.
“Since Carson was 3, we have spent several nights per month in the emergency room and admitted (to the hospital) several times. Almost three years ago we were admitted to the PICU in Iowa City because he was not recovering. He was incubated for five nights. Since then we have been admitted several times in Iowa City, along with numerous ER visits. But our last years have been awesome with only one ER visit!”
Carson sees two doctors about every three to six months. “Lots of road trips,” she said.
Doctors have been able to control Carson’s breathing episodes with medication.
Ernst-Dalaska said the family (which also includes husband/dad Daka and daughter Mya) often thinks it should not be included in the Children’s Miracle Network because of the even more difficult situations other families deal with. “But we are truly amazed at the Iowa City Children’s Miracle Network and the whole hospital and love to share the many positives that can come out of the negative experiences as we all deal with an illness at the hospital. Without Children’s Miracle Network and the hospital, I know we may not have been as lucky as we were.”
Being an alumna of St. Ambrose, she was happy to have her family participate in the St. Ambrose dance marathon. “It was an amazing experience,” not just for her son, but for the whole family, Ernst-Dalaska said. “I have spread the word and added two families from my area (to connect with the St. Ambrose group)….The students in charge of this event made the experience what it was. They put their whole hearts into this and are great young adults.”
McClure said the dance marathon included laser tag, food, prizes and games. “A lot was going on.” Families who were helped by Children’s Miracle Network also spoke. By the end of the 2012-13 school year, the St. Ambrose dance marathon had helped 16 families.
Scheck said all families are in the Quad-City area. The dance group tries to have an event every other month for the families, such as a slip and slide and water games in July. They provide babysitting for the families when requested so parents can have some time together.
At the Salt Lake City conference, McClure and Scheck attended presentations by Children’s Miracle Network, met other dance marathon teams, and gathered more ideas.
“We were able to share what we did and learned a ton,” McClure said.
Nationwide, around 30 dance marathons help 800 children. The program was started about 22 years ago in Indiana to benefit a young boy. Since then it has spread across the U.S.