I knew this was going to be a bittersweet event because it was the first U of I Dance Marathon without Oliver. He LOVED going to DM's and was usually found playing video games in the Best Buy room and making new friends there. I had a migraine and felt horrible so Ed took the kids down by himself on Friday night. I watched the family introductions and beginning of the DM online streaming live! I got a video of them all walking across the stage. It was Finn's first year going to Iowa's DM so I was sad to miss his first experience with it. Ed said that since it was our first year as a 'Forever Family' they keep you on the stage and after all of the families go through, they read off all of the names of the children that have passed away. We got a button as well that had 'Forever Dancing in our Hearts' on it along with all of the names of the children that have passed away. It was so difficult to listen to.
As DM starts there is a candle lit in memory of all of our angels and remains burning throughout the entire 24 hour event. There is a quilt that the children get their names added to as well. I found it fitting that Oliver was listed right below Adnan Malkic as they are both kids from Waterloo. Adnan was in middle school and passed away from stomach cancer I believe. His father came to one of Oliver's benefits and was super nice. I still need to meet his mother, but will have to have a Bosnian interpreter come to help with the language barrier. My mom said she's very nice as well and wants to meet me sometime.
My mom and I drove up Saturday morning so we could spend the rest of the day with everyone. There are a few families that I like to catch up with. It's also nice to meet new families each year and learn more about their children as well. There was a 'Dancing in our Hearts' Luncheon that they do every year offsite at the Sheriton, so we went to that. They catered some BBQ pork sandwiches and a nice meal. We wanted to sit with someone so we could get to know another family. We met the Reinier Family, whose son Ben, passed away from cancer 9 1/2 years ago. They were very nice! I hope to see them at more family gatherings in the future. We ate lunch and then people got up if they felt moved to do so and share a little bit about their journey. There were people that have been there for like 15 years or more and some as little as a few weeks since their child had passed. It was a very touching and emotional time. It's so nice that they do that because you can just relate to everyone in that room and know that you all are missing a huge part of your heart. They get it. We also received a brick with Oliver's name on it that I'm going to put in his memorial garden in our back yard this summer.
Jaren and Finn
Woody, me, Kim. Please pray for Woody's son, Brady (he's in middle school), as he recently had a cancer scare. He is in remission for rhabdomyosarcoma, a muscle cancer, and they found something new. He'll be having surgery in May, so please keep him in your prayers. Woody and Kim were so amazing during Oliver's journey so I would love to have tons of prayers sent their way!
Phineas, Rachel (our new DM Family Rep), Jaren
The boys playing with their new friend, Sam, who we met at the 'Dancing in our Hearts' luncheon. His brother, Ben, passed away 9 1/2 years ago. Sam was so sweet and reminded me so much of Oliver. The boys just clung to him!
Eden doing 'Just Dance'.
Phineas dancing with the ladies!
Some of the kids pillowcases in the Main Ballroom where the music and dancing was.
Phineas and Jaren playing football with some new friends! Amy is sitting in the black shirt. Her niece, Jordyn is battling cancer. She is so sweet and she always honors Oliver... his name is on the back of her shirt. I should have snapped a pic of it. Wish we lived closer.
Someone is tired!
Rachel and Eden. I'm so glad Eden had such a fun dance partner this year!!
THE BIG REVEAL!!! $1,529,650.19!!! I still can't believe they raise that much money in one year!
This was after the final slide show of the children that have passed away. Surprisingly I wasn't a blubbering mess this year. I think I'm still numb. I don't know. I've heard that the second and third year following a child's death are even harder than the first. Everyone's journey is different. Phineas was running around and wouldn't sit still for a photograph. Jaren was so tired!
Phineas, Kathryn and Eden. It was Kathryn's last year at DM. We will certainly miss her! Eden loved dancing with her at the last couple of Dance Marathons down there!
They have luminaries in memory of all of the cancer angels as you walk out of the building. It was a bittersweet not. Definitely harder to make ourselves go since he's gone, but still so important to go. These kids do so much throughout the entire year raising money, spreading awareness, visiting the kids, planning family outings and planning for the big event... it is something that the kids really look forward to. It was nice meeting a few new families this year. We are very grateful for all that these students do for our kids and how they honor and remember those of our children that are no longer with us. Thank you.