Hi! My name is Abby Veldink and I am a junior at Hope. Here, I study special education with the hope of working with students with behavior disorders or autism. My passion for people with special needs stems from growing up with two sisters with disabilities and complex medical needs. I have seen life out of a unique lens that many haven’t had the opportunity to see out of. I have watched my sisters’ suffer a great deal, however, I have seen them enjoy life and overcome obstacles, too! Throughout my life, my sisters have spent hundreds of hours at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. The medical teams that have attended to my sisters’ rare condition have improved their quality and quantity of life immensely! Without the cutting edge medical insights that these physicians provide, I would not have gotten to experience the childhood with my sisters that I did. Because of the treatment they received at HDCH, my family could live as “normal” of a life as possible.
Growing up, Dance Marathon was always a part of my family’s routine. Every time March rolled around, my family would begin counting down the days until the marathon! This was such a special part of my year for many reasons. I loved being able to stay up late, I loved being surrounded by cool college kids, and I loved seeing a community of people rally around children and families that were dealt a difficult hand in life. For the 24 hours of the marathon, my sisters weren’t stared at because they used wheelchairs. People didn’t look at them and ask questions or make assumptions, they simply celebrated them for who they were as individuals. College students that I had never met hung out with my sisters and me. They played with us, laughed with us, and drank pop way past our bed-time with us! I was able to interact with other people my age that had siblings with high medical needs, too. As incredible as it was to see the amount of money raised for the hospital, the community of Dance Marathon is what is constantly stands out to me. I can not emphasize enough what this event means to the families involved. During the marathon, people who need a break from reality get to enter a jam-packed gym full of college students who simply care. The marathon is so much more than money raised for an awesome cause, the marathon is a rest and a recharge for families who need a break from reality and a reminder that they aren’t in this fight alone.
Being a part of Dance Marathon as a miracle family and now as a Hope College student has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I look at the miracle families now and I am immediately filled with joy and gratitude for the community this event forms! Seeing Dance Marathon from a miracle family perspective as well as a Hope student perspective has been a gift. From both viewpoints, I have seen that Hope students truly care. It is incredibly humbling to see my peers give up time, energy, and money to support complete strangers. The community of Dance Marathon; and of Hope College, truly shine the light of Christ by showing people that they are not in this fight alone.
Students of Hope College, you make a bigger impact than you know! It has been a humbling experience to see this community rally around kids and families to show their care. Keep raising money, keep building community, and keep going out of your way to show the love of Christ to these kids!