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Maryland Stories: Alli

It was a warm day in May, right before I noticed a rash all over my legs accompanied with an unbearable amount of pain. The year was 2006; I was 6 years old and just about to finish the first grade. This was right before my dance recital, I was not sure if I would be able to push through the pain, but I ended up doing so and dancing to the song ‘Lollipop’ while holding a pink styrofoam oversized lollipop to add to the visuals. Directly after the recital had ended I was brought to a local hospital. When they informed my parents that they could not identify what was wrong, I was then transferred to Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, a Children’s Miracle Network hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. After a 2 week long hospital stay, it was revealed that I had Still’s disease, a form of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. 

Perhaps the worst part of this diagnosis was being prescribed doses of steroids, each delivered through shots. Each Friday, my dad had to give me these shots on my thigh. This would trigger a great deal of anxiety, causing me to get sick before or after it was delivered. This was not the only stress that the shots had caused me, as it also stunted my growth. For an entire year I did not grow at all, and also gained a lot of weight as a side effect to the medicine. In many ways, this forced me to second guess my abilities, particularly my love for dance. I believed I did not have the right look or build as my other peers to take on the stage to dance. While these thoughts went through my head, I had decided to persevere and to expand my love for dance that I once had and dance competitively. However, I was unable to do a lot of the choreography as a result of joint pain. This caused a greater deal of anxiety and belief that I was failing everyone. In addition, my dance teacher would call me “fat” and many times poked fun at my inabilities. It was nearly impossible to push through all of this. After that year, I stopped dancing competitively and only took one class. It was as if my love for dance was completely ruined, all as a result of my diagnoses.

My parents had noticed my confidence and self esteem decrease immensely and looked at new schools for me, where I could hopefully find myself again. I then began attending Garrison Forest School in my 4th grade year. This was an all-girls school, and after a few short months, my parents saw a complete change in me. I began to take more and more dance classes, and found joy again. A few years later, I ended up stopping dancing entirely, solely because I had gotten more involved at school and found a deep love for the stage through musical theatre. 

My entire world changed the summer before my senior year of high school when I had found out that my mother’s breast cancer had spread beyond her breast, and to the spinal fluid, her brain, and the rest of her body. When she passed away peacefully in hospice care, I knew that I wanted to work in a field that would make an impact on people. I wanted to be someone that would be remembered one way or another. This was when I came to the epiphany that I would want to be an Elementary Education major, just as my mother was, and be an inspiration to many just as she was to her students. When I was meeting with my college counselor and formulating a list of potential places to attend, she turned to me and said “you know, I think you need to find a school with a Dance Marathon program, that is an atmosphere I see you thriving in.” Little did she know, she was right. After being accepted to the University of Maryland, it met our criteria and I knew that was the school for me. 

While participating in Terp Thon, it was as if I was brought back to my childhood. I stood on my feet and danced my heart out. Sure I was in pain from all the time spent dancing, but that did not stop me from wanting to keep going. I watched the Miracle Kids do the same. What particularly stood out to me was the Miracle Kid Talent Show, where each of the Miracle Kids displayed a talent and proved to be more than their diagnoses. This was inspiring to not just me, but everyone in attendance. This triggered a memory of my third grade self, when I decided to participate in my camp talent show and sing to “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. That was the first time in a while that I could just be myself. The amount of joy I had on stage then, reminded me of the joy the Miracle Kids had on stage now. 

Here I am today, and I could not be more ecstatic to be involved in Terp Thon this year. I am a member of the Morale Committee, and doing just as I had always wanted. I get to make an impact on the College Park community, and most importantly, the kids. The smiles that we as members on morale get to inspire is something I will always treasure. In fact, the love I have for Terp Thon has grown so much that I am currently in the process of starting a Dance Marathon Program at Garrison Forest, to allow them to make miracles just as we do at College Park. I participate in Terp Thon for those that need more happiness and hope in their life, just as my first grade self would have. I am so grateful to have a community that cares about this so much, and I cannot wait to play a role in all of it. So THANK YOU for giving me the opportunity, I look forward to all the smiles and joy we can spread at Terp Thon 2020.

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