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DM makes miracles for kids

Seven-year-old Alexis Flynn is just like any other little girl. She likes to sing and dance. She loves animals and the outdoors. She plays the piano and loves the computer.

But unlike other girls her age, the sweet and vivacious green-eyed, curly brown-haired Flynn has faced horrors that other children have not.

Flynn was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in July 2004 when she was just 4 years old at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. During her time there, Flynn underwent surgeries designed to test her lymph nodes. She also had a spinal tap and experienced bone marrow checks.

Flynn also had surgery to put a port in her chest, which was placed under her skin and connected to her main artery. Each time the doctors and nurses drew blood or gave Flynn an IV, they used this spot in order to eliminate poking her sensitive skin. Most of Flynn’s chemotherapy was given through her port site.

After about six weeks of treatment, Flynn was transferred to St. Vincent Mercy Children’s Hospital, her mother Erica said.

Upon arriving, Flynn found a number of different distractions waiting for her at the hospital.

‘I really liked the toy room, and my favorite place was inside the playhouse,’ she said. ‘They had lots of cool stuff in there like play food, and a bed and an oven and a little baby doll.’

Unbeknownst to her, these toys were donated by the Children’s Miracle Network through funds raised by the major campus organization known as Dance Marathon.

The annual 32-hour fundraiser, which was started on campus in 1995, has raised more than $1.8 million dollars to care for children who suffer from terminal illness, acute diseases, birth defects and severe trauma.

The children and their families, also known as the miracle families, all have stories similar to Flynn’s and benefit greatly from the advancements made through the donations.

‘We are connected to the miracle families because they benefit from the money that we raise during DM,’ Family Relations Chair Lauren Wolk said. ‘The money goes towards funding research grants for the hospital, Playstations, movies and just anything that the children can play with while they’re in bed.’

For 6-year-old AJ Thomas, one of the children sponsored by DM, the movies available during his stay at the hospital made all the difference in the world.

Thomas, who was 4 years old at the time, fell backwards into a smoldering campfire ring and burned nearly 10 percent of his arms, legs and back, said his mother Michelle.

The little boy remained in the hospital for 12 days, undergoing routine burn cleansing and antibiotic treatments.

‘He had a favorite movie – ‘The Incredibles’ – and we watched that probably about every other day that we were there,’ Michelle Thomas said. ‘Having that distraction, especially after they cleaned the burns, made things a whole lot easier.’

This year, both miracle children will be attending DM as healthy and happy participants. Thomas has not experienced any infections since the burns and Flynn completed all her leukemia treatments during October 2006. She also had her port removed from her chest last April.

And though Flynn and Thomas are looking forward to dancing and playing with the student participants involved with DM, their parents are more excited than they are.

‘This will be our third year going back to Dance Marathon,’ Michelle said. ‘I’m just so proud of all the kids who do it and I know it’s something that the whole family looks forward to every year.’

The Flynn family has also been attending DM for three years, and is known by many of the participants as one of the more active families there, Wolk said.

Not only have they attended the past three dance marathons, but Tony and Erica Flynn have disc jockeyed for Mini Marathon, where area high school students dance for six hours, for the past

two years.

They say being involved and working alongside the students is their way of showing support to those who work so hard in order to make a difference.

‘I can’t look the students in the face and tell them this because what they do means so much to me,’ Tony Flynn said. ‘The fact that they are willing to give up so much of their time – from the beginning to the end of the school year – we are just in awe of them.’

‘To know that students will take time out of their busy schedules to benefit kids they don’t even know is simply incredible,’ he said.

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