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Thanksgiving Day 2010. I was in 8th grade, on my way to Thanksmas with my dad. Thanksmas is my dad’s side’s version of Thanksgiving. We combine the Thanksgiving and Christmas!! Imagine over 50 people in a barn, on a farm, celebrating like it’s Christmas and eating like it’s Thanksgiving, fun right?! Absolutely. It is my favorite holiday to this day. But that year, I didn’t quite make it.

I had been having stomach problems, on and off, since Valentine’s Day in 3rd grade. I was so excited to go to school to see all of the candy and Valentines my classmates left for me, but when my mom pulled into the circle drive of St. Mary’s to drop me off, all of a sudden I couldn’t get up. My stomach was in so much pain, I couldn’t go to school, no matter how badly I wanted to. I was bummed. After that Valentine’s Day in 3rd grade, I missed 18 days of school and began a piece of my life that would go on for years. The first day of the last stomach pain episode took place in 2010 on Thanksmas.

Driving down the interstate with my dad, I all of a sudden was faced with a horrible stomachache. After all those years, trying countless amounts of diets, treatments, and medications, the doctors still were unable to find the root of the problem occurring in my stomach. We were at a loss. Since my pain the past few years was so on again off again, my dad and I didn’t know whether or not to turn around and go back home. I was trying to be tough; trying so badly to be okay, so I could go to Thanksmas. But it didn’t work. We turned around and headed straight for the ER in my hometown. That day, was the first, and only holiday I spent in the hospital. That day, I didn’t think I had much to be thankful for. The few years before that day in 8th grade, I had spent many days at home and away from my friends. I missed some birthday parties and sleepovers that I would’ve done anything to be able to go to. That year, I had received the lead role in the 8th grade play, but soon had to hand it over to my understudy, as I had just missed too many practices, all due to my stomach. This Thanksgiving was the last straw.

Fast forward to being in college, and thinking about the miracle kiddos who spend most the holidays in the hospital, the kiddos who stay home from school more than they go, and the kiddos who, through it all, are the strongest people I have ever met, I am nothing short of thankful for UNI Dance Marathon.

Today, I am thankful. Today, I am ready for another holiday season. Today, I am healthy. Looking back on those years, I realize how lucky I really was. How lucky I was for the doctors to find the problem shortly after that 2010 Thanksgiving, and lucky to realize how curable and non-threatening all this really was. How lucky I was that I was still able to go to school most of the time, see friends, and not spend my holidays in the hospital. I’ve spent a lot of time being thankful that I was as lucky as I was during that time. I am just as thankful I found an entire organization of people that dedicate themselves to helping those kiddos that don’t have it as easy as I did.

#OrangeYouThankfulForDM? Because I am. I am thankful Dance Marathon offers hope to those kiddos and families who do spend a lot of their time in a hospital. I am thankful it brings “just being a kid” to kids who don’t live a lot of their life by that slogan.

Thank you Dance Marathon, for being FTK.


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