At an early age, Gracie Lyons felt the impact Lauren Small left on the community, inspiring her to help sick children in any way she can as she grew older.
Lyons was a kindergartener at Olive Drive Elementary School in 2005 when Small, who attended Olive Drive Elementary and was a sixth-grader at Norris Middle School, lost her battle with osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer.
On April 2012, the year Small would have graduated high school, her family donated $2 million to expand and refurbish the children’s unit at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital, which was later named in her honor. The Lauren Small Children’s Center was the first center in Bakersfield dedicated to pediatrics and the only pediatric intensive care unit between Madera and Los Angeles.
“I saw the impact (her passing) had on the school community and I just want to help the other children here get better so they don’t have to drive out to Los Angeles,” said Lyons, who is majoring in business administration with a concentration on health care management.
While attending Centennial High School, Lyons helped plan Extra Life events, video game marathons that raise funds for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and benefit the Lauren Small Children’s Center locally. Now a freshman at CSU Bakersfield, Lyons is doing the same – this time, as president of the Runner Dance Marathon Club.
Part of the national Miracle Network Dance Marathon collegiate movement, the Runner Dance Marathon, which takes place March 9, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the CSUB Student Union Multipurpose Room, is a family friendly 12-hour event that raises funds for the Lauren Small Children’s Center, featuring food, raffles and, of course, lots and lots of dancing to music courtesy of DJ Pantomime Kyx.
Entering its sixth year, the Runner Dance Marathon has raised thousands for the Lauren Small Children’s Center, including over $9,000 last year.
The event will feature dance instructors teaching classes every hour, ranging from hip-hop, line dancing, Polynesian dance courtesy of Tatou Uma and more; raffles with prizes like passes to the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco; as well as a “jail raffle” in which participants can donate to put other guests in jail who must match the donation to get out.
The event is open to the public with admission consisting of a $20 donation, which includes an event T-shirt, lunch and dinner while supplies last.
“(The Lauren Small Children’s Center) cared for 37,000 kids last year at the hospital – that number is pretty staggering,” said Robin Woodward, manager of the Children’s Miracle Network at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital. “We’re not going to stop until we treat every single child in town. That’s what our goal is – to not have to turn away any cases.”
For more information, go to www.runnerdancemarathon.com. ￼