Sparkathon: Making a difference for childhood cancer survivors

Sparkathon executive board, volunteers, clinical staff and donors gather for the April 1 dance marathon celebration.

Sparkathon, a student-run service organization, has raised more than $6,100 so far for the UI Health Childhood Cancer Survivorship Clinic.

Run by co-presidents Clarissa Gomez and Julie Gawenda, Sparkathon is still accepting donations online for the clinic.

“Our goal is to raise awareness of late effects among survivors and to build on the significant accomplishments of the Children’s Oncology Group in improving long-term survival and quality of life,” said a Gawenda, a third-year biomedical engineering student.

Childhood cancer patients are at risk for a number of long-term health issues because of the surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation they received as a child. The UI Health clinical team provides individualized care to Chicago-area childhood cancer survivors across their lifespan with education, preventive screening, social services and specialty care referrals.

“Survivorship begins at the time of cancer diagnosis, but it isn’t a journey a patient has to take alone,” Gawenda said.

During the Sparkathon celebration April 1, donors could watch a livestream of the in-person dance marathon event at Hawkeye’s Bar and Grill. The event included a line-dancing tutorial, sports tickets giveaways and more.

“There are not too many things you can participate in where you can step back and say, ‘Wow, I made a difference,’ but Sparkathon is one of those rare things,” Gawenda said. “Upon visiting the clinic and seeing the patients, you see exactly where the money fundraised and the effort put into fundraising has gone.”


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