More than 1,400 students — approximately 25 percent of Elon University’s student body — participated in the 12th annual Elonthon dance marathon, raising $180,068.58 for Duke Children’s Hospital and Health Center.
“This number represents more than just a number. It represents hope, and it represents Elon, and it represents the kind culture that we’re trying to cultivate here of selflessness and philanthropy,” said Elonthon’s Executive Director Kaylyn Weller when the total was revealed. “I really think that this total right here is something to be proud of.”
Fundraising for the event has gone on for several weeks, but significant strides were made the week of the event. Just three days before Elonthon, a campaign to raise $15,000 in one day was launched. In just 24 hours, the campaign, #15KinaDay, collected $30,176.
“We were overcome by how much support we received that day, how much the kids received that day,” said Alaina Schukraft, marathon relations chair. Schukraft credited the support of the Elon community as the reason such an accomplishment was possible.
Throughout the 24-hour marathon, dancers had the opportunity to hear stories of various children who had been positively impacted by Duke.
Kennedy Goodwin was born with Goldenhar syndrome, a condition that affects the development of the ears, eyes and spine.
“What brought her to Duke was wanting to be like all her friends and have two ears,” said her mother, Amy Goodwin.
Cartilage from Kennedy Goodwin’s ribcage was used to construct another ear. She underwent this procedure twice, and both attempts failed after infections in the area destroyed the new ear cartilage.
Kennedy Goodwin’s doctors decided to try a prosthetic implant that would be attached to the bone of her skull. After four months of waiting for the implant to heal, the prosthesis was attached and Kennedy Goodwin officially had a new ear.
“What I can tell you about Duke is that they never let you leave without hope,” Amy Goodwin said. “They give you hope, they make sure that you keep the hope. And within time, they made sure that Kennedy got her ear.”
Hayla Remines had another story to share. After undergoing several tests at Duke, Remines was diagnosed with kidney disease at 3. She received multiple treatments to keep her healthy, but the fact remains that kidney disease is incurable.
“Eventually, I will have to have a transplant — but not today,” Remines said.
Now 22, Remines has been a Duke patient for nearly 20 years. The hospital has been a huge part of her life and has proactively sought out new treatments to help.
“Every time that I’ve gotten severely out of remission and I’ve regressed further in my condition, they’ve always been there,” Remines said.
Because of her experiences at Duke, Remines is currently in nursing school so she, too, can make a positive impact on children’s lives. She hopes to help others in the same way she was helped and hopes to work at Duke someday.
“I love the community and the team, the healthcare team that’s there at Duke, from the nurses who are absolutely amazing and there every step of the way, and the doctors who will come into your room every morning and check and talk,” she said.
At Elonthon, 21 “miracle children” shared stories of their experiences with Duke Children’s Hospital, including current Elon student Tessa Kroninger and former student Leigha Martinelli.
As one of the largest dance marathons in the United States, Elonthon makes a difference in these patients’ lives. Just before the total number of money raised was announced, dancers heard from Dr. Daniel Wechsler, a hermatology and oncology specialist who discussed how medicine at Duke is advancing.
Wechsler said that, 30 or 40 years ago, many cancers seen in children had low recovery rates. But things are changing.
“Since then we’ve made incredible progress, and currently about 75 or 80 percent of kids who are diagnosed with cancer are actually cured because of our treatments,” Wechsler said.
Furthermore, certain cancers, such as leukemia, have even higher recovery rates. Wechsler congratulated Elon students on their participation and role in facilitating this success.
“Elonthon goes above and beyond the call of duty, serving the patients of Duke,” Wechsler said. “It brings us closer to finding cures for all different kinds of diseases, and your support helps give kids the change to grow up and live a healthy life.”
While things are improving and medicine is advancing, Elonthon participants are dedicated to actively supporting the patients at Duke Children’s Hospital.
“We strive for a day when we don’t need a dance marathon, but until then, we’re going to fight with all we have for them,” Schukraft said.