By Maddy Vitale
The forecast called for gray skies and rain.
But when “Dancing For Hailey” began Sunday morning in honor of Hailey Parker, who passed away at age 11 in 2015 after a battle with brain cancer, the sun came out.
“Hailey did this,” said one woman as she looked at the sun peeking out.
And then the fun began.
Children and their families danced in the streets, ate sweets, sipped on chilled lemonade and remembered the little girl who so bravely fought her disease and even raised funds for other children with cancer.
“It’s awesome,” Hailey’s mom Kim Parker said, as she glanced at a crowd of people at 8th Street in front of The Dance Place in Ocean City. “It is just a very emotional day.”
Parker walked in to see her husband Don and hug their baby Fin, before running around to help wherever she was needed.
She beamed as she interacted with some of the kids who won prizes.
Then she spoke to her lifelong friend, Dana Linthicum, the chairwoman for “Dancing For Hailey,” and showed her a jar filled with donations.
In three years “Dancing For Hailey” events have raised $52,000, including nearly $20,000 this year. The fundraiser promotes awareness about childhood cancers and help with cancer research.
Linthicum watched as so many people were having fun and said, “I am just so happy.”
“I love seeing the whole community come together for such an important cause,” Linthicum said. “It’s amazing how wonderful our town is.”
Becky Jenkins brought her two children Billy, 9, and Mackenzie, 6, to the event and said they wouldn’t want to miss another one.
“We have a lot of friends who are involved in this event,” she said. “We haven’t been able to come other years, but it is a good cause and we are here to support it and don’t plan on missing another one.”
Then the Jenkins went up to claim their prize from Parker.
If dancing wasn’t your thing, there were many other activities to enjoy. Ocean City Fire Department firefighters gave fire hose demonstrations and there was a good game of soccer, courtesy the Nor’easters, going on. There were also tables set up for kids and adults. Popular ones included Bowfish Kids, where kids got glittered and glammed up. Then there was a neat painting class by Peace of Wood and for the fashionista there was Bohemian Mama, where the employees created cool flower head pieces for people to wear.
“Dancing For Hailey” was created by Parker and Linthicum with the help of volunteers and has grown each year. It is their way, they have said, to carry on what Hailey started.
After Hailey was diagnosed with cancer, she raised $527 at a front yard lemonade stand and gave the funds to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a national childhood cancer foundation dedicated to raising funds for research into new treatments and cures for all children battling cancer.
Since then, as a preview to the big “Dancing For Hailey” event, the group holds fundraisers with lemonade stands at different businesses and homes in Ocean City and they raise thousands of dollars. In addition to the volunteers are many giving local businesses who donate to the event.
Beth Robertson, community engagement coordinator for Alex’s Lemonade Stand, attended the fundraiser Sunday.
Robertson’s son Cameron is a cancer survivor. Though she doesn’t know the pain of losing a child, she knows what cancer can do to a family. In her profession, she sees people handle tragedy very differently.
People either retreat from anything to do with the fight against cancer, sometimes forever, other times temporarily, or they do what Parker and her friends and family are doing.
“They are helping other kids. They continue because they don’t want others to deal with what they had to,” Robertson explained. “What Kim (Parker) and her group is doing is amazing.”
Ashley Madden, a “Dancing For Hailey” volunteer, was busy at the sweets and lemonade table.
She barely could find the words to describe her feelings.
And then she said this; “It is heart-wrenching, but heart-filling. It is amazing that this all comes together so beautifully.
For more information email DancingForHailey@gmail.com or visit www.alexslemonade.org.