Fundraising a miracle


Participants of Kent State’s sixth annual Flashathon pose with the total amount raised Saturday, April 7, 2018. 

Shelbie Goulding

On Saturday, Alieen Smith gathered in front of a crowd of stangers during Kent State’s sixth annual Flashathon to tell a story about her daughter Fiona.

“I’m going to try and get through this without crying,” she said.

In July 2013, Fiona fell while playing at daycare and was sent to the emergency room. She wasn’t responding when taken to the ER, and they quickly sent her to Metro, where they found a grapefruit sized tumor on her kidney.

“I asked her pediatrician where we should go,” Smith said. “He told me ‘absolutely Akron Children’s Hospital.’ Her daughter was there for almost a week because her heart was enlarged to the point they couldn’t operate. The doctors started chemo right away, and four months later Fiona got her kidney, part of her adrenal gland, part of her liver and part of her diaphragm removed.”

“After undergoing six more months of treatment, Fiona is now three years in remission,” her mother said with relief. The crowd cheered instantly.   

Fiona and her family teamed up with Flashathon to benefit Miracle Families like them who are undergoing treatment and remission at Akron Children’s Hospital.

The student-run organization is a Children’s Miracle Network Dance Marathon that holds an annual 12-hour dance marathon. The event consists of participants staying up on their feet from noon to midnight and taking part in various activities offered. These activities included dancing, games, raffles, painting, photo booths and endless fun.

Every hour the Flashathon team taught a part of the Morale Dance, which is a routine they put together for the participants to perform at the end of the night. Four enthusiastic dance captains stood on stage teaching the routine to a mashup of popular songs. The crowd stayed cheery and pumped throughout the night when learning the dance for the Miracle Kids.

“I do it for the kids,” Flashathon president Matt Leupold said. “I know it’s a stereotypical answer, but the kids are who got me involved in this organization in the first place.”

Leupold said his childhood friend passed away from cancer, and he wants to help the Miracle Families stay positive. He also wants to help represent Kent State in the best way.

“I want to make sure Kent State is doing its part in helping these kids and their families,” Leupold said. “This is a growing movement stretching across the country and many universities. Kent State needs to represent.”

Fiona took part in various activities at the event. She was joined on stage by one of the four Flashathon teams to perform a Lip Sync Battle to the song “Fergalicious.” They were victorious and won the battle against the other opposing teams.

“It’s a privilege to work with all the university dance marathons,” said Brittany Costa, the Miracle Network programming coordinator at Akron Children’s Hospital. “I love attending Flashathon because it was our first dance marathon benefiting the Miracle Kids of Akron.”

Costa said she has been involved in dance marathons since she was an undergraduate student. She’s always enjoyed working with the Miracle Kids, but now she gets to work directly with the Miracle Families when it comes to her job.

“Being able to create a relationship with the families and see how much these events have helped families is amazing,” Costa said. “Flashathon has helped the kids have fun, and it has helped parents reach out and speak to others.”

The Miracle Kids enjoyed the fun thanks to Flashathon providing a DJ, bounce house, snacks and games. Disney characters Snow White, Alice, Moana and Rapunzel made an appearance for the kids as well.

“The kids always have a good time each year we come,” Miracle parent Jeff Juhasz said. He and his family have been a Miracle Family for three years. His daughter has been in remission for two years, but they come to support others and fundraise for the cancer center every year.

“The Flashathon group does a great job with the kids and they’re just great people all around,” Juhasz said.  

The participants enjoyed the fun as well thanks to raffle baskets and fundraising games. Fundraising Director Mackenzie Allen pied Leupold for $5 in the fundraising push time game, and other participants began to donate $5 to pie the president soon after Allen.

“I do Flashathon for a lot of people in my life,” Flashathon member Taylor Walters said. “My childhood best friend had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and my grandpa is currently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.”

Walters said she doesn’t believe dancing or standing on her feet for the 12 hour period is difficult when it comes to the kids. She wants to be there for others because she understands what they’re going through.

The Flashathon team, the participants and the Miracle Families all agreed the long evening was worth it by the time midnight rolled around. The crowds cheered miraculously as Flashathon members revealed $47,680.19 fundraised towards the cause. 

Shelbie Goulding is the recreation and fitness reporter. Contact her at [email protected].