Meet the Miracles

Every year, pediatric patients in Northwest Arkansas join our Arkansas Dance Marathon Family as our Miracle Kids. They can expect to receive year-round personal attention, support and friendship from our members. Our Miracle Kids are the sole reason why Arkansas Dance Marathon exists. Their strength, love and resilience are what drives this movement year after year.

Evan Lee

Evan was born with spina bifida and Chiari malformation - two birth defects that affect the spinal cord and cause brain tissue to extend into the spinal canal. Prior to the opening of ACNW in Springdale, Evan was treated primarily at Arkansas Children’s in Little Rock. This commute was rather far for his family, so when plans of Arkansas Children’s Northwest began to arise, Evan and his family wanted to help! As ACNW’s 2017 Champion Child, Evan got to order the lowering of the very last beam during construction of ACNW, laying the foundation for a facility that would come to care for over 200,000 kids in the NW Arkansas area. Evan even went on to become one of the ten Children’s Miracle Network’s Ambassadors for the nation - representing over 700,000 people in the U.S.! Today, Evan is living life to the fullest and continues to represent ACNW whenever he can. As his mom often says, Evan never has a bad day!   

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Tori Johnson

At just 9 months old Tori was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer known as AT/RT. She was immediately airlifted by Angel One to Arkansas Children’s in Little Rock where she had a tennis ball-sized tumor removed from her brain. She also underwent six months of high dose rounds of chemo, three stem cell transplants, and six weeks of radiation. Today, Tori is cancer-free four year old who loves to laugh, play, and raise awareness for pediatric cancer. In fact, Tori is the face of ACNW’s “Go Gold for Pediatric Cancer” 2019 movement this year with hopes of raising enough money to create a hematology-oncology department at ACNW to keep care close to home for the kids of NW Arkansas!

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Ender Pense

Ender and his twin brother Asher were born full-term and perfectly healthy - a feat that is uncommon with most twin pregnancies. However, around 16 months old, Ender began to fall ill. He was lethargic and vomiting, and when brought to the doctor, he tested positive for strep. Thinking this was all it was, he was sent home with medication. However, Ender continued to worsen and lost 4 pounds within a matter of days. Ender was brought back in and given all of the gastro tests and no answers. Because of the severity of Ender’s condition, he was helicoptered to Arkansas Children’s in Little Rock. Upon his arrival, the head of the Gastroenterology Department ordered an MRI. The MRI showed that not only had 16-month-old Ender had a stroke, but also had a brain tumor. He was immediately taken into surgery to have the fluid in his brain drained, and eventually also had a procedure to completely remove the tumor. Ender just celebrated his 6th birthday and can now get care close to home at ACNW for his annual check-ups - all of which have been completely clear!

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Jace Atha

When Jace’s mom, Cristin, was 20 weeks pregnant, doctors found a serious heart defect called tricuspid atresia. While this news was scary, doctors at Arkansas Children’s had a plan. At 36 weeks, the news got worse. Jace didn’t just have one major congenital heart defect, but three. Despite the fact that none of the cardiologists had ever seen this before, they worked hard to devise a plan that would ensue immediately after Jace was born. Cristin didn’t even get to hold Jace before he was whisked away by the capable Angel One ambulance team to Arkansas Children’s NICU. At just 9 days old, Jace endured his first open-heart surgery. He had two more of these surgeries to temporarily repair the defects, making his open-heart surgery count three right before his second birthday. Jace is now a happy and healthy 8 year old who, along with his mom, dad, younger brother and sister, loves to represent ACNW and share the story of his “special heart”. 

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