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Miracles at UMaine

When Lucy entered into the world, no one expected she would start her life in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit—a cramped room, in which private moments among families were hard to come by. Babies’ cries and beeping monitors reminded weary families how precarious life is for newborns who need this highly specialized care to survive.

“Lucy didn’t have her own space and our family was really struggling to welcome this baby girl into the world the way we wanted to,” said Rebecca Hatt, Lucy’s aunt.

Lucy is the reason why Rebecca dances. On a drizzly Saturday in February, hundreds of students joined Rebecca for 12 straight hours of dancing at the 2018 Black BearTHON held in the Memorial Union at the University of Maine in Orono. In its seventh year, this miracle network marathon event is a major fundraiser held to support pediatric care at EMHS hospitals including the new 29-bed NICU at Eastern Maine Medical Center.

Rebecca-Hatt.JPGRebecca is president of the Black BearTHON and led what has become the largest community fundraiser on campus. “I got started doing this because I realized there was a real need in our community, and I wanted to be able to help kids like Lucy who are fighting for their lives,” she said. “I really wanted families like mine to have an easier time with the NICU than we did.”

Every cent of the $34,157 raised at this year’s event was donated to EMHS Foundation Children’s Miracle Networks Hospitals. Funds go toward the equipment and support doctors, nurses, and other caregivers need to provide high quality care to children at EMHS member hospitals. Most of the money is raised a dollar or two at a time by students who reach out to friends and family for support.

Austin Steward, a University of Maine student, was diagnosed at age six with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a fast-growing form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His journey inspired him to pursue a career as a pediatrician and drove him to recruit more than 600 dancers who signed up to participate. “It’s the magic of a dance marathon,” he said. “The word spreads itself. You get a few key people who participate every year, they share the reasons why they dance, and everyone joins in.”

Austin-1.jpgThe opening ceremony is one of the most powerful moments of Black BearTHON. “Miracle children” who have benefitted from the care provided at EMHS hospitals rush into a crowd of hundreds of cheering students. The children light up with huge smiles as they become the center of attention. For Rebecca, it’s her favorite part of the night. “Even as they’re stressed about tests and homework and all that stuff, the students really take a step back and connect with those kids,”

It’s also the students’ dedication and hard work that brings this popular annual event to life. “Working with the University of Maine students is absolutely inspiring,” said Kelly Pearson, director of EMHS Foundation Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. “You meet with them in September, and you realize they’re developing leadership skills that they’re going to have for the rest of their lives. It’s really inspiring what they can do.”

For students like Rebecca, the Black BearTHON is bigger than a single event. “We’re so grateful that the UMaine campus has embraced us for what we truly are. During one night, in support of one cause, we come together as Black Bear Nation, to support these kids and show that we care about our community.”

Learn more about EMHS Foundation Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals by visiting
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