We kick off Dance Week by reminding you of our cause with a Miracle Story from Kalee Brook.
Kalee Brook is a post-grad dietetics student here at the University of Florida. Kalee took some time to share her Miracle story with us as both a UF student and a member of one of our Miracle Families. “I’ve had the privilege of experiencing Dance Marathon from the bottom up. I started out as a Staffer for the Morale team, a Delegate, and for the past several years, a Family Relations Captain. I first handedly know the hard work and fundraising that goes into making DM such a success and on the other side of the spectrum I’m one of the Miracle Families and know how much a difference that fundraising has on the lives of patients and families. I’ve been treated at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals now for the bulk of my life. I was seen locally growing up at the children’s hospital back home and was transferred to Shands after my condition deteriorated. I was paired up with a team of specialists who changed my life. I was diagnosed with a slew of autoimmune related disorders including Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease, Gastroparesis, Vasculitis, and Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. My one doctor refers to it as a having a ‘systemically overactive’ immune system because my body lacks the ability to differentiate which cells are mine and which are foreign. I have a port to manage infusions and a permanent feeding tube for the bulk of my nutrition. It’s overwhelming at times but I think back to where I was when I was first transferred and to all that I’ve been able to accomplish since and feel so blessed. Dance Marathon changes the lives of patients and families because it provides research funding for better treatment options and funds equipment, beds for parents to sleep in next to their children, Arts and Medicine, and Child Life. Thanks to the support I have received at UF Health at Shands, I was able to graduate college and hope to have an impact similar to the one health care providers have had on my life.”
Kalee then went on to explain exactly why she feels so called to participate in Dance Marathon at the University of Florida. “I remember the awful sinking feeling in my stomach that I got when I realized I was running out of treatment options. I look back on the times my mom would get emotional because I was in so much pain and we felt so helpless. The late nights I stay up getting sick. That’s why I DM- so no other patient or family has to experience that kind of feeling. I remember the first time I shared my story on a DM stage. I was terrified of putting into words some of the lowest, most vulnerable parts of my journey. I looked out and the crowd had their arms outstretched into the CMN balloon shape, a standing ‘O’. The support I got afterwards- it’s hard to explain what it meant to me. It was when I realized something good is coming out of my struggles, that I can do something about all this. DM gives me hope for a better tomorrow and that’s quite honestly one of the most powerful things you can possibly provide.”
– Jenna Theofiledes and Ashley Norus