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Miracle child inspiration at DM

With a smile that could light up a room, Andrew Kern had the ability to inspire hundreds of college students. His strength and upbeat attitude caused two students to make a trip from Bowling Green to Memphis, just so they could spend four hours with him. All this and he was only nine years old.

“He was one amazing boy,” said Amanda Samson, family relations chair for Dance Marathon. “He was wise way beyond his years.”

Andrew, one of last year’s Miracle Children benefiting from DM, passed away on March 11 from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer that affects the immune system.

His mother, Shelly Kern, spoke at the closing ceremony last night at DM. She presented Jared Wright, assistant director of internal for DM, with a full-page photo of Andrew, taken for St. Jude hospital, a facility in Memphis, Tenn., where Andrew underwent treatment.

“Andrew was my treasure,” she said. “One thing about Andrew was he just wouldn’t quit.”

Kern encouraged DM members, telling them that the trials they faced this weekend, including staying on their feet for 32 straight hours, will help make them the leaders of tomorrow. She thanked them for the funds and hope they provide to local children.

“When I look out here, all I see is love,” she said.

Kern also visited DM on Saturday, sporting a long black braided wig which belonged to Andrew. Kern said her son loved wearing the wig, which served as an example of his good sense of humor. Kern said that even though people might have stared at him when he went out, Andrew always kept a positive outlook on life, something he held onto since being diagnosed with the disease in January 2003.

“I thank God for letting Andrew be here with us,” Wright said. “He has opened so many hearts.”

Wright, along with other DM members, got to know Andrew last year through hospital visits and other DM events.

“Through Andrew’s participation, a lot of us were able to grow close to him,” Wright said.

The Kern family sent DM members e-mails even after last year’s event to keep them updated on Andrew’s situation.

“Once a child is a Miracle Child, they are a Miracle Child for the rest of their life,” Wright said.

Wright and one of his fraternity brothers were so inspired by Andrew that they drove to Memphis and back in a day, even though this only allowed them time for a four- hour visit. When Andrew passed away, Wright, along with eight other DM steering committee members, attended his funeral.

“Jared has been a blessing,” Kern said.

Throughout the weekend, DM members wore buttons with Andrew’s picture on them, to remind them of the purpose of the event.

Andrew’s story has certainly had a large impact on the lives of DM members. His legacy serves as representation of all children DM supports, according to Jennifer Page, DM director.

“He touched our hearts,” Page said. “You find a little bit of Andrew in every Miracle Child.”

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