Dancers team up with Miracle Children in support of Mizzou Dance Marathon

Children’s Miracle Network Champion child for Missouri met leaders such as President Obama and Miss America.
Miracle Kids Beau Edwards, Cassidy-Rae Luebbering and Bryce Edwards attend the FT5K in October. The 5K race raised $7,215 toward the total. Courtesy of Kate McIntyre

Dance Marathon began in 1991 at Indiana University after the death of Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who was HIV-positive. Since then, the event has grown into a nationwide movement in which the events raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.

According to Annie Bastida, the executive director of Mizzou Dance Marathon, each team recruited members through different groups, including MU clubs, sororities and fraternities. Each team has two Morale Captains who were chosen in early September and have participated in activities with Miracle Children throughout the year.

“The Morale Captains have been working with the Miracle Children year-round,” Bastida said. “We had a fall family picnic with food, arts and crafts, and games. We also had a Christmas party, tie-dying event and a family potluck.”

Dancers from the teams will participate in the main event at the MU Student Recreation Complex from 12 p.m. Saturday to 1:06 a.m. Sunday. This event includes a 13.1-hour dance party, and participants are encouraged to stand the entire time. This year, Mizzou Dance Marathon created 17 teams for Miracle Kids.

Team Beau Edwards

Beau Edwards, 7, was born prematurely with multiple complications. Tam Beau recruited members through groups such as Schurz Residence Hall, the Wildlife Society and Sigma Alpha sorority.

Beau’s twin brother Bryce Edwards also has a team participating in Dance Marathon. Bryce has cerebral palsy.

Beau has faced many challenges since birth, according to a short biography written by Beau’s mother and provided by Jessica Plumart of Mizzou Dance Marathon Family and Health Relations. He went through physical, occupational and speech therapy the first three years of his life. He currently has auditory processing disorder and shows signs of attention deficit disorder. Bryce and Beau also participate in T-ball and flag football.

Freshman Paravmeer Hundal, a Morale Captain for Team Beau Edwards, first met Beau at a family picnic held for the Morale Captains and Miracle Children.

“He is a pretty awesome friend and he loves to play things like flag football,” Hundal said. “Nothing seems to hinder him. What he is going through doesn’t seem to be holding him back at all.”

Senior Natalie Maggiore, a Morale Captain for Team Beau Edwards, said Beau’s energy is one of the most distinguishing features in his personality.

“He is awesome; he is so energetic and spirited,” Maggiore said. “Every time he comes to a Dance Marathon event, he runs around with all the Morale Captains and he will dance just like Justin Bieber if you ask him to.”

Junior Dominic Vollmar is a member of Beau’s team and has done service projects with kids with disabilities in high school.

“Early on I joined because a bunch of people on my floor wanted to do it,” Vollmar said. “But I have come to realize there really are no negatives. You get to help kids out, dance for 13 hours and hang out with friends.”

Hundal said it is important for these children to work with college-aged students because it gives them an outlook for their future.

“I think that working with these kids gives kind of a drive to live every day to the fullest,” Hundal said. “I think it gives them a visible goal that they, too, can go to college like everyone else and fulfill their dreams.”

Team Jayla and Dylan Kemp

Jayla Kemp, 6, and Dylan Kemp, 1, are siblings who both have cystic fibrosis. According to a short biography written by their mother and provided by Plumart, Kayla was the Children’s Miracle Network Champion child in 2012 for the state of Missouri. She traveled to Washington, D.C., and Orlando, Fla., to meet leaders such as President Barack Obama and Miss America. Jayla joined Girl Scouts this year and loves musical artists like Justin Bieber and One Direction.

Dylan was doing chest percussion therapy and breathing treatments within a week of birth. He has not had the same struggles with weight gain as Jayla, according to the biography.

Junior Maddy Gebhardt, a Morale Captain for Team Jayla and Dylan, chose to become a captain this year because of her participation in the past as a dancer and her love for the families. Gebhardt works with the families and has tried to get her team of 60 dancers more involved with the Miracle Children.

“We made cards for the families on Thanksgiving and Valentine’s,” Gebhardt said. “This past weekend we also painted banners. Jayla and her mom were there, and they got to meet some of the dancers.”

Junior Tucker Moore, a Morale Captain for Team Jayla and Dylan, said working with the Miracle Children has helped him realize how much he has to appreciate and the strength of those he is working with.

“Looking at Jayla, Dylan and Michelle (mother), you would never know the daily obstacles they face,” Moore said. “Jayla and Michelle are always smiling, always happy to see us. Jayla, even with cystic fibrosis, is more lively and rambunctious than most kids I know. After every meeting with Kemps, I always wonder if I could do what they do every day if I were in their shoes, if I could be that strong. “

Gebhardt said when she first met Jayla, she was very shy but became very energetic once she came out of her shell.

“My favorite memory is dancing with her at the Splash Race,” Gebhardt said. “A bunch of Miracle Families were there but we hung out the whole time. She taught me how to do things like a backbend.”

Moore said Dance Marathon has also allowed him to learn lessons that he can apply to his every day life.

“I’ve learned to work hard for something that has nothing to do with myself,” Moore said. “You come to college and are taught to strive to reach your own goals, but (Dance Marathon) has taught me to give my time to something meaningful as well.

Team Connor Strope

Connor Strope, 7, has been diagnosed with brittle bone disease. His Mizzou Dance Marathon team of 45 members was recruited through groups such as Brothers Under Christ, uE3 College Connect and Muslim Student Organization.

Senior Ben Daniels, a Morale Captain for Team Connor Strope, said Strope is a ladies' man with a lot of enthusiasm. He also said his enthusiasm could be seen at many of the group events.

“Connor (Strope) is a big ladies' man, and I tried to get a picture with him one time,” Daniels said. “Danny, our co-executive, was there and (Strope) wanted to get a picture with her and all the other girls before he got a picture with me.”

For sophomore Emma Meek, a Morale Captain for Team Connor Strope, her favorite moment with Strope was during their tie-dying event.

“With Connor (Strope) specifically, we were dancing outside of Plaza. He is in a wheelchair, so he was wheeling around everywhere,” Meek said. “It was inspiring to see him act like any other normal kid. This disease does not limit him at all. It made me realize why we do what we do.”

Meek said interaction was significant for both the Miracle Children and the Morale Captains, as it brought a sense of community.

“I think the interaction is really important,” Meek said. “We see why we are working so hard, and it is important for them to see who is doing it for them. It is really about the relationships. It is something really unique with Dance Marathon, to see where the money is going.”

Freshman Bobbie Roberts, a member of Team Connor Strope, agreed interaction was an important factor of this program.

“I think the interaction will inspire them even more,” Roberts said. “They have all these people that care about them and it keeps them fighting with their conditions.”

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