Elementary school holds mini-Dance Marathon for former student w - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Elementary school holds mini-Dance Marathon for former student who died of cancer

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An Iowa elementary school hosted a mini-Dance Marathon in honor of one of its former students who lost his fight with cancer.

Hoover Elementary in Iowa City always cheered on student Calder Wills, who was diagnosed in 2016 with an aggressive blood cancer. Last May, the school held a parade send-off for Wills, who was leaving for treatment.

Five months later, on November 4, Wills died from complications of a stem cell transplant.

In the past, Hoover held mini-Dance Marathons to help support the University of Iowa's student organization. Dance Marathon is a national program that works year-round to raise money for pediatric cancer.

On Friday night, Hoover's mini-dance was much closer to their hearts, honoring its own. This night was dedicated to Wills.

"It hits home with us with what we went through with Calder.  It's just a night to gather as a community and have some fun together, and maybe have a little reflection," Will's 5th grade teacher, Adam Loria, said. It was in 5th grade that Wills was diagnosed with cancer.

Not only was the night dedicated to Wills, but the school raised money for Dance Marathon in his name.

"He was such an important, significant part of the school," Dennis Harnack, Hoover Elementary Principal, said. "[It's important] supporting the children's hospital. That's where Calder spent the last few months of his life."

A large group of UI Dance Marathon members were also at the event to keep the kids entertained throughout the night, and to spread its mission of raising money for pediatric cancer. The organization helps host a number of other mini-Dance Marathons during the year.

"It furthers our outreach, working with schools, not only in Iowa City, but across the state of Iowa. We're not only getting schools but communities, as a whole, to support the families going through this," Dance Marathon member, Cole Schuchard, said.

In a week's time, Loria and other faculty members organized a t-shirt sale that said "This is my forever CalderStrong shirt." Loria said he expected to sell 100 in the short time. Instead, it was closer to 300. All proceeds from the shirts, plus the donations they raised, will go to Dance Marathon which gives the funds to the UI Stead Family Children's Hospital. Loria expects the shirts to have raised $2,500 alone.

Many of the students, parents, and teachers wore the shirts during the Friday night event. A symbol of the student that made a huge mark on the school.

"A lasting impact.  I think it brought us closer together. It's kind of cliche, but it's too bad that something like this has to happened to really bring a school community together.  But I think it really did," Loria said.

The big UI Dance Marathon event will be held Friday, February 2. Last year, the group raised more than $2.5 million. Information on how to donate can be found here.

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