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Dancing for the children’s sake

I have been told how my tiny fingers extended for the first time. My worried mother looked on with little understanding of the gravity of the situation, contemplating the worst and hoping for the best. My proud dad paced the hallway picturing only the tiny human life he was holding in the palm of his hand.

Doctors informed my grieving parents that I, the premature baby they just welcomed in to the world, was too small to live. They were told I was to become another statistic, because in 1984 babies that small weren’t expected to live. Hospitals didn’t have the same technology they have today and doctors weren’t as specialized.

I was lucky enough this past Saturday to take a tour of the facilities at All Children’s Hospital, a world-renowned medical facility located just across the bay. The group I was with was shown the neonatology units, where premature babies spend their first days and sometimes even their first months. Some families are able to carry their babies out of the neonatology unit alive. Sadly, others are not.

Today doctors are specifically trained and facilities are designed to help ensure the survival of premature babies. Hospitals such as All Children’s work tirelessly to support families at this crucial time in their lives.

USF is partnering with All Children’s in an effort to raise money for their facilities. Students can get involved by participating in this year’s Dance Marathon on Oct. 9.

Florida’s infant mortality rate in 2001 was 7.3 deaths for every 1,000 births. We ranked 21st in the nation, according to information from the U.S. Census Bureau. All the money collected at this year’s Dance Marathon will go directly to All Children’s Hospital, right in our backyard. Why am I mentioning it now? Simple: The earlier you start, the more money you can raise.

Dance Marathon has become a tradition at schools throughout the country. This year, it will be held as a part of the homecoming events. Participating teams will earn points towards the coveted Super Bull Trophy. Teams can sign up by registering with the Homecoming Steering Committee.

Those who attended USF’s first Dance Marathon last year will remember the free music, food, games and entertainment throughout the day. There are various themes and competitions for participating teams, as well.

There is a catch, though: you can’t sit down at all. The point is to dance for kids who can’t. The Dance Marathon on our campus spans only seven hours; many other schools stay on their feet for 24 hours — some even 48.

Homecoming teams are also encouraged to raise additional money. Through letter-writing campaigns and various other events, teams can earn additional points. Those points are also calculated to determine the overall Dance Marathon winner. For more information contact Volunteer USF in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center.

Is this a plug? Maybe. In full disclosure, I am on the Dance Marathon committee. It could be argued that I am using this column to shamelessly promote a USF event, but the cause has a personal connection..

Even though I couldn’t say much at the time of my birth — or move anything beside my tiny fingers — I would like to believe that as my dad was looking at me in the palm of his hand, I was looking back at him.

I would like to believe that when the doctors told my parents I was going to die, my will to survive was made stronger.

In a time when we have a president who turns his back to advances in science and research and in a time when our image around the world is worse then it ever has been before, do we not have a responsibility to the future? Let us work together to ensure our next generation can reach their full potential.

Charlie Eder is a junior majoring in mass communications and political science. eder684@aol.com