At 9 a.m. February 2, 2013, I received the worst call of my life. It left me speechless. My youngest brother had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) the day before and was being admitted to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that day.

Weeks later, friends at Pennsylvania State University texted me during their famed THON, telling me they were dancing for my brother, dressed in orange. At first I was touched by their thoughtfulness. I was blessed to have such solidarity.

But after watching my brother and several others battle cancer in that hospital, I became deeply cynical of any Dance Marathon — whether it’s Penn State’s or Elon University’s.

Dancing didn’t save my brother’s live.

My bone marrow did. All the money in the world wouldn’t have helped him at the exact moment he needed it —  even with friends dancing for him at Penn State’s THON. That money never touched him. Not even close.

But because I donated my bone marrow, he’s been in remission for almost two years now.

For that reason, I do not donate to or participate in Elonthon or any Dance Marathon for that matter. The money those events raise benefits large medical institutions instead of the families that are affected by cancer who need immediate help.

If I do donate money, it goes to organizations who donate the money to families directly. And, in all honestly, there’s something better than donating and fundraising money.

Donate time. Donate blood. Donate bone marrow.

Dance Marathons don’t generate this type of aid. They benefit a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.

The funds go to that hospital for whatever it may need. It does not benefit those suffering only from cancer.

THON, on the other hand, is specifically Penn State’s. It benefits the Four Diamonds Fund, which was started in 1972 and provides 600 child cancer patients with care every year.

Elonthon benefits our local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, which is Duke Children’s Hospital. It does not go directly to families but to whatever Duke needs it to go to.

While we’re dancing, Duke University researchers, who write grants to get money for their research from the tax-payer-funded National Institutes of Health, recently announced a potential breakthrough in the treatment of brain cancer.

It may sound harsh, but I don’t agree with the idea that dancing and fundraising money will eventually lead to a cure — for cancer or for any disease. Scientists in labs and hospitals around the world receiving aid from government organizations will lead to cures.

Elonthon’s website says the money goes to Duke to help families regardless of their ability to pay. But the hospital has discretion over how that money is used. The hospital’s  website says donations from Dance Marathons go to equipment, patient and family programs, and research.

People need solutions now.

Yes, the money might go to helping the masses in the future, but what about those suffering now?

Would you donate money if you heard a loved one was dying? Or would you take every test possible to see if you could donate something of yourself?

My sister has done just that. Yes, she participates in Temple University’s Dance Marathon, but she also does a lot more than that.

She donates blood once a month and platelets every two weeks — the most-needed donation for patients undergoing chemotherapy or organ transplants.

She switched her career path from veterinary medicine to nursing. She volunteers at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia as a Bedside Buddy, a role in which she plays with kids to give the parents a much-deserved break. Actions like that are what make a difference in the present.

And for a family dealing with cancer, or any other life-threatening disease, the present is what matters.

So go sign up for the blood drive at Elon. Volunteer at Duke Hospital. Write cards to the kids. Arrange a “Be the Match” event and register yourself. See if your dog can be a therapy dog. Donate your hair to Locks for Love. Call or write Congress to increase the percentage of funds from the National Cancer Institute that goes toward childhood cancer (currently at 4 percent).

If you’ve done these things — great. But don’t just dance and raise money. There is more that you can do, and there are kids suffering now who need a miracle. You can give it to them.


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