My Journey: Rachel

Growing up outside of Philly, I constantly saw college students canning for Penn State’s THON. My parents and I donated every time we saw a can. Soon those can donations turned into donations for my eldest brother as he took the brave steps to be a participant in Penn States’ THON. After experiencing Dance Marathons through him, and seeing the impact organizations like this could make, I knew I had to get more involved. During my senior year of high school, I was a part of the first ever mini marathon. I served as the Morale/Spirit Committee Chair. This is where my love for Dance Marathons really grew. It was life changing to be a part of the first ever event at my school. In our short year we were able to raise over $30,000! Seeing the event run smoothly, and seeing the major impact my small hometown high school could make, motivated me to get involved with Terp Thon when I arrived at Maryland.

At the First Look Fair I practically ran to the Terp Thon table to get more information. I applied to be on the Morale Committee again as I had so much being the motivator for my high school mini marathon. I had an incredible time preparing for Terp Thon throughout the year, but it was on the day of Dance Marathon that I realized just how special this organization was. I’ll never forget at the beginning of our 12 hours when we introduced the Miracle Kids. A bunch of Planning Team members created a bridge and each kid ran through. I just remember watching each kid run through with a smile, and my eyes began to fill with tears. That is when it truly hit me: they are the reason I am on my feet for 12 hours. They are the reasons I spent hours creating and practicing the Morale dance. They are the reason I stand out in the freezing cold to go canning. I saw their smiles, and I realized the importance of what I am doing. I remember talking to Samerya and hearing the impact Children’s National had on her. Yet again I am serving on the Morale Committee where I hope to keep the dancers involved all throughout Dance Marathon. 

I am pushing to get more of my friends involved this year so that they can have the same incredible experience that I was given through Terp Thon. Although I never had a personal connection to Children’s National, Terp Thon has helped me to put my own life into perspective. Just because I was fortunate enough to have a healthy childhood does not guarantee that everyone I know will. I want to take advantage of the fact that I was lucky and help others. It is so easy to make an impact, and even if that impact is small, it is still an impact. Every little thing Terp Thon does has a positive effect on the kids of Children’s National, and I am so grateful to be a part of it. 

My Journey: Liz

My journey with Children’s National Medical Center began in 2008, when a misdiagnosis of the flu resulted in me being airlifted to Children’s in a near-comatose state. I was in the severe stages of diabetic ketoacidosis, and would not have made it to the next hour without the quick response of the Children’s National team. It has been 10 years since I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and in that time, Children’s has been with me every step of the way. Because of Children’s I have learned how to live with a chronic illness. Because of Children’s summer program, Brainy Camps, I get to volunteer with kids with chronic illnesses and show them that their condition doesn’t define who they are. Because of what Children’s has done for me all of these years, now I can give back to help other kids like me with Terp Thon. Because of Children’s I am ready for the journey ahead. And right now, the future is looking pretty bright!

My Journey: Kieran

Hi! I’m Kieran O’Connor and I am a sophomore Middle School Math and Science Education major at University of Maryland. I have always been For The Kids and even applied to Maryland because of the amazing Miracle Network Dance Marathon program already in place here! However, this past semester my Why was altered.

I spent about a month and a half in the hospital this past semester over a 3 month period. From the adenovirus, to pancreatitis, to developing recurring neurological symptoms, I was exposed to much medical jargon, but I was also exposed to a lot of worry, loneliness, and confusion. Don’t get me wrong, my nurses were extraordinary and very kind, but it was hard to not feel down when the universe has stacked things against you. 

One thing that continuously came to my mind, though, was how our  Miracle Kids must feel. I am 19 years old with much more development and cognitive reasoning on my side, a 10 year old like my home girl Brooke would probably think of the situation very differently than I was. And that’s when my Why changed.

Terp Thon fundraises for more than just medical jargon. We fundraise for kids to be kids. We fundraise for packs of Uno cards, for smiley face stress balls, for arts and  crafts and SO MUCH MORE! Terp Thon reminds the patients at Children’s National that childhood and fun can still exist.

My Journey: Juliana

I entered the University of Maryland as a biology major with no idea what I was going to do with my degree. I decided after my freshman year that I wanted to change my major, and because of Terp Thon, I settled on kinesiology so that I could become a physical therapist. Our Miracle Kids inspired me with the challenges they have overcome. They made me want to make stays for the kids in hospital easier and more fun and to help them gain their lives back. I am specifically looking to pursue pediatric physical therapy as a result of Terp Thon being a part of my life.

My Terp Thon journey started my freshman year when I attended the Dance Marathon with my sorority. I joined Planning Team that spring after seeing my sister Krysten be so involved. She made me fall in love with the organization.

Being a part of this organization these past few years has given me insight into just how big of an impact our efforts have. The art therapy rooms at the hospital that act as a safe haven for kids are possible because of our efforts. The Bunny Mellon Healing Garden where all kids, regardless of their medical restrictions, can go outside and feel like a kid are a result of our efforts. The fact that no child is turned away based on their ability to pay is because of our efforts. I am honored to stand for 12 hours each year to represent and honor the amazing nurses and doctors at the hospital.

Terp Thon gave me an organization that I could fully dedicate my time to. An organization that I am passionate about. An organization with hundreds of amazing people that have stories and passion that I would not know about if I had never attended the Dance Marathon my freshman year. With my last year as an undergraduate member of Terp Thon, I want to get as many people engaged as possible. I want everyone to see the possibilities we can create and the passion and energy that fills the Armory at our Dance Marathon. I want to get people excited for Terp Thon and connected the way my friend did for me my freshman year.

When I graduate next semester, my Terp Thon journey is not over. I will stay connected through Terp Thon Alumni Network. I also hope to do a placement during PT school at Children’s National. 

Terp Thon has impacted so many lives and it has changed the course of my life. It has shaped my career and I am forever thankful to this organization.

My Journey: David

Those who know me know that two of the most important people in my life are my little brother, Matías (10), and my older sister, Talia (22). They are my two Whys when it comes to Terp Thon. Starting with Mati, when he was little, he spent a lot of time in the hospital. Visiting him in the hospital, I would see many other kids having to spend lots of time getting treated and I always wanted to do something to help, but I could never think of anything. A couple of years later, my sister Talia was able to help me figure out how I could help. In her time at the University of Florida, she was extremely involved with their Dance Marathon, and she would constantly explain to me how life-changing her experience was and how great of an effect it had on her life. Hearing her stories and seeing the pictures and videos of her experiences helped me figure out how I could finally help the kids.

Getting involved in Dance Marathon in college, at whatever college I wound up at, would be how I could help. After being a dancer during my freshman year for Terp Thon, I decided that I wanted to get more involved and play a larger role, so I joined the Public Relations Committee this year. Being on Planning Team allows me to have an increased role, see more of what my efforts are going towards, and make a greater impact. Terp Thon has really changed my perspective on life and given me some of the greatest smiles that I have had in my life. Since joining Terp Thon, I’ve been able to have more opportunities to make people smile, which is one of the things that I enjoy most in life, and I’ve also been able to smile more myself. For everything that Terp Thon has given me and will continue to give me in the future, I am forever grateful.

My Journey: Doug

My name is Doug Yeager and I am currently a senior majoring in neurobiology and physiology. This is my fourth year participating in Terp Thon and I am currently on the Morale Committee for my third year on Planning Team. Terp Thon has had a tremendous impact on my life. My Terp Thon journey started after dancing for twelve hours my freshman year, and I saw what kind of a difference I could make in the world. I learned from all of the Miracle Kids about everything they have gone through and got to see the smile on their faces when performing the morale dance. I was impressed by the 300 hardworking, committed students working so hard to put on such a great event. This inspired to me to want to get more involved in the cause. After dancing, I joined planning team and joined more organizations where I got to help others who needed it.

This inspired me to change my major from chemical engineering to neurobiology and physiology pursuing a pre-med track. I realized that for the rest of my life I wanted to have that same impact on people everyday. I can thank Terp Thon for opening up my eyes and allowing me to see the difference one person can make on another, and how tremendous of an impact thousands of dancers coming together can make. I am excited to enjoy my senior year while pursuing a career that will allow me to make a difference every single day. Terp Thon has been life changing for me and I can’t wait to make the most of it as a senior this March!

My Journey: Aishu

My name is Aishu and I am a senior Physiology-Neurobiology and Psychology major and this is my first year on TTPT. My journey with Children’s National began during my sophomore year during which I was a Patient Care Volunteer on the floor 6 East, the hematology/oncology unit. This experience was emotionally vivid, as I was given the opportunity to directly interact with all the children on the floor, play games with them, talk to their parents, understand their stories, and be a part of their lives. Shortly after, I started volunteering with a program called DC STRIVE, where students like myself from the University of Maryland offer mentorship and support to doubly vulnerable, low-income sickle cell anemia patients at Children’s National.

Being able to watch these teens grow into decisive, resilient young adults who are empowered for success beyond grade school and know how to effectively navigate the unique struggles of chronic illness is such a rewarding experience. Even in the face of distress and illness, working with the clinicians and staff is an immensely valuable experience and has shaped my lifelong interest in wanting to help families cope with severe pediatric illness.

I can truly say that Children’s National holds a special place in my heart and has greatly shaped the image of the type of doctor I wish to become one day. I hope my story inspires you all to look for your own unique ways to change the world around you!

My Journey: Audrey

When I was a kid, I was super active and enjoyed playing sports more than almost anything else. When I was in high school, I was very involved with competitive cheerleading. I was at the gym almost every day, working on learning new skills as well as making my current skills more consistent.

I got my first concussion when I was 16 from tumbling. The recovery was not very long, since this was my first one, and I was able to get back to practicing pretty quickly. Unfortunately, I suffered two more diagnosed concussions in the next year in addition to some smaller head injuries. After the last concussion, I was experiencing severe head and neck pain everyday for months. I also was having to take time off of school and even when I was able to return, my schoolwork was still negatively impacted. The worst part for me though was that I had to stop practicing the sport I loved.

Luckily, I saw a concussion specialist who referred me to Children’s National. At Children’s my neurologist gave me various treatment plan options that my family and I could choose between. He was extremely flexible and understanding of my situation. He referred me to other doctors like physical therapists and massage therapists who also helped me recover. 

Because of Children’s, I was able to slowly ease back into exercising as my symptoms subsided. Although I still suffer lingering side effects of my concussions, I am now healthy enough that I can train and compete with club triathlon here at the University of Maryland. I am lucky that I was able to be treated by such a quality health care system, and I want every child to have the same opportunities and care that I was able to have.