Katy Burkert, left, at IUDM 2010

To all IUDM alumni: thank you for making a difference in my life. My Riley story began in 2003 when I was diagnosed with a rare neuroendocrine tumor called a pheochromocytoma. Thanks to the incredible doctors, nurses, staff and volunteers at Riley, I’m grateful to be alive and well today. My experiences at Riley Hospital inspired me to get involved with dance marathon at my high school, Bishop Chatard.

After my first marathon and feeling the overwhelming support of those involved in it, I came to understand the importance of why we dance for those who can’t and how sharing the stories of Riley kids and families not only inspires but makes a real difference. If it weren’t for the passion and enthusiasm of the IUDM committee and executive council members who supported my high school’s marathon and me, I wouldn’t be here today. I fell in love with the family IUDM creates.

A couple years ago I had the privilege to meet a special family indirectly through IUDM. By a rare coincidence this family is affected by the same disease I was treated for when I was at Riley. When I was treated for my tumor eight years ago little follow-up was suggested simply because the tumor was benign and little was known about the disease at that time. Since I met this family, my family and I have traveled to the National Institutes of Health where researchers are working to find a cure. There is a good chance that at some point in my life I will have another tumor. Had I not met this family, my family and I may have never known to keep screening for tumors and I am fortunate to know what to look for in the future. I wouldn’t be here today if my connection to dance marathon hadn’t brought me to this special family. It goes to show how the connections that Riley Hospital and dance marathon foster come full circle to make a difference in people’s lives.

Over the years I’ve had the incredible opportunity to give back to Riley through dance marathon, yet dance marathon has given me so much more. It is a privilege to not only be alive and well but to be here, dancing for and supporting the many kids and families at Riley. When I hear the closing song “Angels Among Us” I not only think of Riley kids and that special family but also you, IUDM alumni. You have inspired me, supported me and made a profound difference in my life. You are my angels.

-Katy Burkert