By: Lauren Peck

After living in Tampa, Florida for almost 20 years, The Johnson family moved here to Iowa in March of 2011.

Unfortunately, they had to leave all of their friends and family in Tampa, but the kids – Aimee (age 14), Sydney (5), and twins Bethanie and Marleigh (2) – adjusted well to the move and enjoyed their new environment along with parents, Jason and Melissa.

Baby Bethanie, a happy, spunky little girl with a contagious personality, started acting

The Johnson Family at the Big Event

differently in June of 2011. After weeks of confusion with Bethanie’s moody behavior, the family made a trip to the ER. After receiving abnormal blood work, the doctors sent the family to Iowa City on July 4th, 2011 where Bethanie was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, infantile type. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia is a rare type of leukemia and a type that carries only a 35% survival rate. Needless to say, the Johnson family’s lives were changed forever.

Bethanie has been receiving treatment at The University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics since July 6th, 2011. During that first year of her diagnosis, Bethanie had to spend months and months at the hospital away from home even on days such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, Labor and Halloween. Even though she’s been through many challenges, only at age 2, she is still here – and that is the most important thing.

The family experienced their first Dance Marathon in February of 2012. The experience was “indescribable,” according to Melissa. Even though the kids were too young to really appreciate what was going on, she said they had an absolute blast. Aimee spent most of the time participating in the Morale Captain in Training Program, Sydney had fun playing with the other Dance Marathon members in the family room, little Marleigh couldn’t get enough of the dancing and Bethanie, even with being nervously attached to both Mommy and Daddy’s side, seemed to have a great time. Jason and Melissa were so positively overwhelmed with all the amazing support the students provide for the Dance Marathon families.

Johnson Family Christmas Photo

The Johnson Family will be veterans at the UI Dance Marathon 2013 this upcoming February. Melissa is excited to watch her girls enjoy the experience again and to see them get even more involved. “I can’t wait to see Sydney get up on the stage for the first time (she was too afraid last year!) and dance like there’s no tomorrow,” Melissa said. “I can’t wait to see Bethanie and Marleigh open up more to the experience and go dance and have fun with some of our DM friends and for Aimee to get out of the game room for a little bit and just have fun with all the amazing dancers who are there for us.”

We will continue to support the Johnson family and baby Bethanie! FTK!

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