“Thank you for dancing. Thank you for saving my brother’s life.”

These words, spoken during the kick-off of IUDM 2014, will haunt me forever. They were said by a little boy whose younger brother struggled with a rare form of cancer at a devastatingly young age. I remember the tears that rolled down my face as I heard his sweet voice, so sincere and full of gratitude. It made me think of my two younger brothers, and what I would do if anything tragic ever happened to them.

When I signed up to participate in IUDM last year, I knew I would be helping hundreds of families coping with kids with serious health issues. I was prepared for it to be a very emotional experience. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was the realization that a child close to me could just as easily be struck with a similar situation. Before the marathon, diseases like cystic fibrosis and leukemia felt worlds away. But to the Riley kids, these diseases are their everyday lives, and that was hard for me to wrap my head around.

At first, when asked why I dance, I said that I dance for those who can’t. But going into IUDM 2015, my perspective has changed. Yes, I dance to help the kids at Riley Hospital for Children who are too sick to dance. But I also do it for the kids in my life who can dance. I dance for my brothers and all my cousins; because they are healthy, but not every kid is so lucky. I pray they never have to experience the struggles too many children face at Riley’s, but if they do, I know they will receive the best care possible because of the money I’ve raised to help fund research. I know that Riley Hospital for Children would give them a fighting chance – and that’s why I dance. 

I’m Sarah McDaniel, and I’m FTK.