Growing up, Jessica heard countless stories of the “miracle workers” at CHOC who saved her twin brothers’ lives after they were born. Today, she’s giving back to the hospital that helped keep her family whole.
Justin and Ryan were born ten weeks early due to twin to twin transfusion syndrome, a rare but serious condition that can occur when identical twins share a placenta, and blood and other fluids do not flow evenly between the two babies, resulting in poor fetal growth.
Among other complications at birth, neither of the boys had fully developed lungs. The boys were rushed from the delivery hospital to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at CHOC Hospital, and their parents were told the odds of survival were very low. Justin’s blood was too thick to pass through his body, and Ryan needed several blood transfusions.
After six weeks of testing and growing stronger in the NICU, the boys were strong enough to go home. That was 18 years ago, and today they’re both healthy, straight-A seniors in high school who are looking forward to attending college next year.
Ever since, CHOC has had a special place in the family’s hearts― including the time one of the boys fell and broke his arm at age five.
“We were about twenty miles away from CHOC when it happened, but I remember my mom saying, ‘We are not going anywhere besides CHOC,’” Jessica recalls. “It didn’t matter that we had to drive past other hospitals to get there. My parents have always trusted CHOC in everything they do.”
When Jessica, a lifelong dancer, entered her freshman year at California State University- Fullerton, she heard about Dance Marathon, and realized it was the perfect opportunity to combine her passion for dance and desire to give back to CHOC.
Miracle Network Dance Marathon is a movement uniting college, university and high school students across North America. Students involved in a campus’ Dance Marathon organization spend a year gaining leadership, teamwork, and nonprofit business experience while raising funds and awareness for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.
The year culminates with an eight-40-hour event (the dance marathon) on each campus where students get to meet patient families treated at their local hospital, participate in games and dancing, enjoy entertainment, and reveal their annual fundraising total.
As an active member of the CSUF Dance Marathon organization, known as TitanTHON, community outreach team, Jessica is responsible for reaching out to on- and off-campus groups to spread awareness of the event and assist with fundraising efforts.
Since 2014, TitanTHON has raised over $113,000 for CHOC, CSUF’s local Children’s Miracle Network hospital.
“Dance Marathon is one of my favorite nights of the year. It always falls around mid-terms, so it’s nice to take a night off from studying and spend time dancing with friends and taking advantage of different crafts and activities,” Jessica says. “It’s an honor to meet some of the families who are benefitting from the funds we raise each year. Last year I got to dance with one CHOC patient, and everything came full-circle. I realized that my fundraising is actually doing good work in my community.”
Jessica, who is studying kinesiology and wants to pursue a career as an adaptive physical education teacher for children with special needs, feels a special connection to the siblings of patients she meets at TitanTHON every year.
“TitanTHON is special to me because there are families and older siblings who have younger siblings being treated at CHOC, just like I did,” she says. “I want them to be able to have the same resources and be as blessed as I was, to have my brothers end up safe and healthy. It’s nice to know I am helping give CHOC the resources it needs to care for other children in my community.”