Welcome to Chicago North Shore Moms Local Nonprofit Spotlight, where we highlight and introduce a local nonprofit’s inception and mission! This month we are featuring Dancing While Cancering whose mission is to bring joy to the inpatient hospital experience for children with cancer. One of the ways in which they do so is via their Smile Pack initiative, a backpack filled with age appropropriate activities, crafts and musical instruments. To date they have been able to provide over 1,000 Smile Packs to Pediatric Oncology departments around Chicagoland.
The birth of this nonprofit is gut-wrenching and awe-inspiring at the same time: Just before Scott and Pamela’s daughter’s third birthday, little Maddie was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Throughout her treatment, Maddie never stopped finding the small joys in life, dancing and singing her way through her cancer treatments. Scott and Pamela write, “Maddie ended up teaching us more about life than we ever could have possibly taught her…. We committed ourselves to embracing Maddie’s diagnosis and providing her the tools to maintain her toddler innocence.” Here is Scott & Pamela’s story, Maddie’s lasting impact and how you can help, too!
Hi Scott & Pamela. Your story is so very personal and we want to thank you for your selflessness and for sharing with our readers. Can you please introduce yourselves?
We’re the proud parents of Maddie and Lily Kramer. Scott grew up in Arlington Heights, IL. Pammy grew up in Cherry Hill, NJ. We met as seniors at the University of Michigan and now live together in Lakeview. We are the Co-Founders of Dancing While Cancering.
When and why was Dancing While Cancering established?
Dancing While Cancering was launched in 2018 in memory of our daughter Maddie. Maddie passed away from a rare form of cancer called AT/RT at just 3.5 years old. But every step of the way, Maddie never ceased to inspire us. And we made a commitment from the day Maddie passed to ensure that her life continued to be remembered as an inspiration and not a tragedy – that when people hear Maddie’s name, or read her story, they would still be able to feel smiles and inspiration through their tears.
What is the mission and who does it serve?
Our mission is to bring joy to the inpatient hospital experience for kids with cancer. After launching at Lurie Children’s in 2018 in hopes of giving back to the hospital that gave so much to Maddie and our family, we are now partnered with 19 pediatric hospitals across the country.
Who was instrumental in helping you establish Dancing While Cancering? Who would you like to thank? Who helps keep the mission strong today?
Two words: Team Maddie.
Team Maddie is truly the definition of community. Friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, and complete strangers…all banding together on the strength of Maddie’s inspiration. And the vision of bringing moments to smile to other kids and families facing this journey. We are forever grateful to the people who continue to ensure that our commitment to Maddie lives on in a way that is making such a beautiful difference.
How do people who directly need your services find out about Dancing While Cancering?
They can learn more by visiting our website at dancingwhilecancering.org
How did you form the nonprofit? (ie. what is the process for doing so)
The idea itself was all Maddie. She really epitomized everything that we do. In terms of the legal logistics of forming a nonprofit, we were blessed to meet an amazing attorney along the way who helped make our vision a reality.
What’s next for your family and for Dancing While Cancering?
Bringing more joy in any way that our hospitals and patients require. We are particularly filled with meaning over a new initiative at Mott Children’s in Ann Arbor. This year, we are helping support children undergoing a particularly isolating treatment that requires them to be physically separated from their family and any outsiders for multiple days in a row. Because of the nature of the treatment, all personal items brought into the room would otherwise need to be destroyed after as well. Dancing While Cancering is now playing our part to make that experience as tolerable as possible, gifting to each patient facing this journey with a personalized set of gifts to decorate their room, entertain with toys and activities, and bring a little normalcy.
How do our readers contribute, volunteer their time or get involved?
First off, get inspired by Maddie. You can learn more at dancingwhilecancering.org or read Maddie’s full inspirational story by checking out her memoir, Maddie’s Miracles: A Book of Life, available on Amazon.com. We’ve donated the royalties from the book to over 15 cancer charities to date!
Second, root on the kiddos we support. Visit our Instagram page at @dancingwhilecancering. Every Sunday, we feature a new patient and share how they #BattleWithJoy. Send them some love in the comments. They deserve every bit of it!