An Elizabethtown girl who has successfully battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma is gaining a foothold in efforts to help others who are still fighting childhood cancer.
Cierra McCauley, an 11-year-old student at Rockcreek Elementary School outside of Columbus and a competitive dancer at Sonya’s Dance Zone in Columbus, has launched a dance challenge.
It’s called Dancer Beating Cancer.
Here’s how it works. You record a video of people dancing to music, then post the video on social media using the hashtab, #DancerBeatingCancer. Video makers are encouraged to tag others while making a donation to help fund pediatric research at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis.
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Online donations can be made for $10, $25, $50, $100 — or any amount people wish to give.
So far, the campaign has generated challenge videos from people in Kentucky, Ohio and states as far away as New York and Louisiana.
The Dancer Beating Cancer campaign, which began this month, is a partnership between Cierra and her parents — Mike and Marci McCauley — and the Riley Children’s Foundation.
For every $1 that is raised, $12 in federal grant dollars will go to Riley Children’s Hospital.
The McCauleys would like to see the campaign generate $100,000 for pediatric research.
Cierra was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 after a growth was discovered on her neck, Mike McCauley said.
The growth spread from her earlobe to her shoulder and resulted in Cierra undergoing six months of chemotherapy at Riley Children’s Hospital.
With a passion for dancing, Cierra continued to dance even while she was going through treatment, her father said.
Now cancer-free for four years, the fifth-grader’s scheduled visits to the hospital are down to once a year — with no worries that the lymphoma will return, Mike McCauley said.
September has become a special month for Cierra, as it’s National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Each September since 2014, horse-racing jockeys from around the nation have worn gold patches for childhood cancer. That effort was initiated by the girl’s parents, who have connections to the horse-racing industry as thoroughbred horse breeders.
Eight of Cierra’s fellow dancers at Sonya’s Dance Zone went to the Indiana Grand Racing & Casino racetrack in Shelbyville on Sept. 9 to dance, carrying buckets seeking donations that netted about $800.
Cierra said she was surprised at how popular the campaign already has become.
Her father encourages others — especially adults — to join in.
“Take the challenge, let’s show these kids that we can be silly, too,” McCauley said. “It was amazing to see people do dances — and we don’t even know who they are.”
As the campaign has grown steadily in different parts of the country, McCauley said he would like to see it also spread closer to home.
And for his daughter, the effort is very personal.
During solo dance competitions in Louisville, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Indiana, Cierra paid tribute to four cancer patients she had met at the children’s hospital who died.
“With it being the number-one killer of kids under the age of 15, it needs to be recognized and pushed,” McCauley said. “Help us spread awareness.”
Cierra expresses determination to see the campaign grow in order to benefit Riley, which she said changed her outlook on life.
“They helped me and I want to help them by raising money,” she said. “Once I beat cancer, I knew I could do anything.”
To learn more about the Dancer Beating Cancer campaign or join in, visit dancerbeatingcancer.org.
Donations can be made on the website to help support pediatric research at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis.
Here are a few resources for childhood cancer.
Riley Hospital for Children, Indianapolis: http://iuhealth.org/riley/
Riley Children’s Foundation, Indianapolis: rileykids.org
American Cancer Society: cancer.org
American Childhood Cancer Organization:
Children’s Cancer Research Fund: childrenscancer.org
Cure Childhood Cancer: curechildhoodcancer.org