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A Reason to Dance

By Padgett S. Mozingo

Lila, her mom and dad, and USCDM leaders at Main Event 2018

No one wants to see a child sick, injured or hurting.

If you’re a parent of a child with medical challenges, you find ways to deal with these struggles

because you have no other choice. Your child is depending on you.

If you’re a college student, a children’s hospital or the thousands of children being treated

there on a regular basis would most likely never cross your mind.

Our family and many others just like us know the miracles that happen inside the walls of

Prisma Health Children’s Hospital (formerly Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital). But equally

amazing miracles are taking place every day of the year on a college campus right here in our


Through the University of South Carolina Dance Marathon, thousands of students are choosing

to be a part of something much bigger then themselves. They’re working full-time positions –

but without pay – to raise money so that children have the quality care and services they

desperately need. And the impact is real, life-changing, not only for young children like our

daughter but also for these young adults who see first hand what can happen when people

work together for something bigger than themselves.

Five years ago, when our daughter was two and a half years old, we were asked to share her

story with students raising money for the hospital. We quickly agreed, never imagining how the

experience would significantly impact our family and particularly Lila.

On March 2, we will be at the Main Event for the sixth time, sharing the story of one Miracle

Child who is able to take the stage, steal the microphone, and freely give high fives and hugs to

a packed room of college students simply because they dance, selflessly, for the kids.

Since before her birth, Lila has been fighting for her chance to thrive. During my pregnancy, we

learned that she had a heart defect and would most likely have Down syndrome. From the

moment that diagnosis was confirmed, the conversations focused on what she would NOT be

able to do. Many were quick to suggest we shouldn’t continue our pregnancy. My own doctor

told me that our baby would not have a high quality of life, that she might not be mobile or

communicate well. 

We spent the remaining 14 and a half weeks of our pregnancy terrified of having our baby

undergo open heart surgery in Charleston and mourning the loss of the life we had expected.

A fighter from the beginning, our daughter was born at 38 weeks just like her big brother. She

weighed 8 pounds, one ounce (only one ounce less than he weighed at birth) and was 20 inches

long (only one inch shorter than him). The extensive medical team that delivered her and cared

for her in those early hours and days was amazing, and they never offered anything less than

the quality care she deserved. Ironically, she was able to wait for the heart surgery – the one

we worried over and feared for all those weeks – until she was six months old.

Lila at 3 days old, with her mom and dad, after her first emergency surgery

Instead, our local children’s hospital – the same one I volunteered for while a student at USC,

long before Dance Marathon existed – saved our daughter’s life in her earliest of days. Dr. Stan

Adkins first operated on Lila when she was three days old in an emergency surgery for a

malrotation of her intestine. He would perform several additional surgeries on Lila in her nearly

three month stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). She left the hospital with a

feeding tube, returned to the children’s emergency room less than a full day later, and was

treated for several conditions in those first months before her heart repair at the Medical

University of South Carolina in Charleston at six months.

Early on, we pegged our girl as Limitless Lila. We decided that if we loved, supported and

challenged her, others’ limits would not have to become a reality. 

Today, we are thankful for a thriving, healthy seven-year-old daughter with bright blue eyes

and a contagious laugh. She loves to dance as much as anyone – especially the hundreds of

college students who choose to dance, and work, tirelessly for her and all the children who also

need the quality care offered at the children’s hospital.

But we are equally thankful to be a part of Dance Marathon. We’ve met amazing young people

who now feel like family, who celebrate Lila and her big brother Garrett and cheer them on in

person and through social media. Lila’s been the flower girl in two weddings, and in each the

bride or groom, or both, were Dance Marathon Alumni.

Without doubt, everyone involved is better for the opportunity and the experience. Truthfully,

though, it’s solely because of the quality care right here at home that we are able to share Lila’s

story and, more importantly, her smile.

How can you help? Follow the example of these young people and choose to be a part of

something bigger than yourself. If you haven’t needed the services of children’s hospital for

your own family, I promise your neighbor, coworker or friend has. And for Lila, and every one of

them, we are thankful . . . for quality care, for these selfless young adults, and for the kids.

Click here to donate today. Any amount helps make an impact.

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