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Jessica Rosales was a teenager when she was diagnosed with Advanced Chronic Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. “I suffered for two years with this disease with pains that could best be described as ‘bone-ripping pain,’ not breaking — ripping apart.”

Andy Pardo and Hiromi Avila are two children who also have pediatric cancer. After receiving extensive treatment, Hiromi’s cancer is now in remission; Andy has not been so lucky. Doctors predict that he may have only a few months left to live.

The two children have many similarities — both have suffered from cancer, both have lost a leg and both are receiving help from the largest student-run non-profit in San Antonio.

For the Kids (FTK) Dance Marathon began as a student project in the College of Business in 2009. Since then, FTK has obtained 501(c)3 non-profit status, allowing them to run as an independent charitable organization.

FTK holds events throughout the academic year that aim to raise money and create a fun environment.

Its annual fashion show, most recently held last November, allowed some of the FTK-sponsored families to have fun and take their minds off their illnesses while the children strutted down a makeshift runway. The fashion show is also where FTK revealed its theme for the dance marathon: Be Brave.

Hiromi has spent a long time being brave, as have her parents and two brothers, ages seven and 16. Her mother, Monica Elizondo, relied on FTK for support while Hiromi underwent three years of extensive treatment, eventually losing her left leg. Hiromi’s cancer is now in remission, but her mother still lives in fear of the day it could return.

“It’s like giving birth a second time,” she said of hearing the news that her daughter would survive. “It’s the best news you could ever hear.”

Elizondo heard about FTK after seeing a flyer in the hospital. “We heard about the dance marathon and wanted to go,” she explained.

Katrina Parkey is the Family Relations Overall for FTK and maintains contact with the Elizondo and Avila families, as well as the other families receiving support from FTK.

“I’ve stayed with the organization since I joined my freshman year,” said Parkey. “I learned that by being involved with FTK I was also giving back to families around San Antonio and even South Texas. “

While FTK can’t pay for the entirety of a child’s cancer treatment, they provide small reliefs such as gift cards for food and gas in addition to fun events for children.

Associate Dean of the Honors College, Dr. Ann Eisenberg, is an avid supporter of FTK. “Imagine trying to entertain a child in one tiny room for nine months in an 18-month period — away from family and friends,” said Eisenberg.

“Health insurance doesn’t help with babysitting costs or the cost of food your child might eat during chemo — but FTK does.”

The group is most famous for its annual 12-hour dance marathon held to raise money for families with children undergoing pediatric cancer. Last year the group raised $40,000 and hopes to increase that number this year. The marathon will take place this Saturday, April 12 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Convocation Center.

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