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The Steffen family makes miracles in Iowa

Haley Steffen was born polydactyly. And while her extra thumbs were surgically removed when she was just seven months old, she is adamant that it’s the reason she is who she is today.

“Dance and biology were my two passions,” she recalls of her freshman year in high school, shortly before she started helping her biology teacher plan the Miracle Network Dance Marathon at West High in Iowa City. “I finally understood why I was born with 12 fingers because that was the first time I was introduced to genetics and it was also the first time that the idea of Dance Marathon and what it is was introduced to me. It was my two passions colliding together, which was super cool, and figuring out that there is an organization that I can help people born with things like me (and more severe) while dancing.”

Haley’s passion for biology and Dance Marathon—a nationwide organization that raises money for local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMN Hospitals)—grew throughout high school where she eventually helped plan each year’s event and began organizing the Dash for Dashiell fundraiser in honor of a miracle child who passed away. As college neared, Haley looked for a school where she could continue the Dance Marathon tradition of helping kids while pursuing her medical studies.

Today, Haley is a junior at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa studying biology (pre-med) and dance with the plan of going to medical school and studying obstetrics. She’s also the President of the college’s Dance Marathon—a role she takes very seriously. “I decided to really devote my time to it because I want to grow this organization on campus this year and get the word out about what it is. I feel like it was my calling to take that on and show Luther what Dance Marathon is.”

Haley has also been able to see her hard work pay off in a variety of ways. Just prior to the new University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital opening, Haley and some of her fellow Dance Marathon members were able to gather together for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Luther College patient room located on the 10th floor of the hospital. She was also heavily involved in helping the college raise more than $71,000 for Stead Family Children’s Hospital in 2017.

With this year’s Luther College Dance Marathon being held on April 7, 2018, Haley has worked tirelessly to get the community and more groups on campus involved in the cause as a true community event. She’s encouraged her Dance Marathon participants to focus on three things: finding their why, focusing on the wins of each day and being the bigger. “That means realizing that the dancers are truly at the core of what we do,” she explains. “We could not have a Dance Marathon without them!” And all decisions are being made with their best interests in mind.

A Shared Passion For The Kids

Although Haley was the spark that ignited a passion for CMN Hospitals, the entire Steffen family quickly galvanized around the Dance Marathon cause. As Haley’s two younger sisters grew up, each of them joined the Dance Marathon movement as well, and her brother and parents are strong supporters of everyone’s efforts.

Emma got involved with West High’s Dance Marathon as a freshman and her dedication grew when her peer passed away from cancer. She helped Haley set up the Dash for Dashiell and collaborated with other students to start Flash Fest. Now a college freshman at the University of Iowa, she was proud to participate as a dancer in the University of Iowa’s 24-hour Dance Marathon this year.

“It’s amazing that we can all share that love and drive for something that is so important to us,” Emma explains of her family’s commitment to CMN Hospitals and Dance Marathon. “It’s amazing that we can come together as a family to help other families because it makes us closer and we are passionate about it.”

Emma hopes to be a pediatric physician’s assistant, and she’s realized, partly through the Dance Marathon experience, that working with kids is something that she loves. “I love seeing the families,” she says.

And Haley and Emma’s youngest sister is also helping set up a Dance Marathon as a freshman at Liberty High School.

Beyond supporting his daughters in their Dance Marathon endeavors, Doug Steffen is also professionally involved with the cause. His role as Vice President of Sales at Convenience Valet brought his connection to CMN Hospitals full circle in 2014 when the company made the decision to support the charity on a regular basis by selling specially marked packages of health and personal care products that have resulted in an annual donation of more than $400,000 to CMN Hospitals each year. “I personally see the need that Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals fills, and we want to do our part to raise awareness and funds as well,” he explains. “This is a priority for us and we take it seriously.”

Emma continues, “It means a lot that big businesses are able to help. It’s incredible that Convenience Valet donates money and their time to help the kids.”

For Haley, she feels blessed to have her family by her side throughout her journey to make the world a better place—whether through her work with Dance Marathon now or in obstetrics later. “Fundraising [for CMN Hospitals] has turned into a family thing,” she says. “I’m proud that one of my biggest passions is one of theirs too.”

She concludes, “For me, the best thing I think I can do for this world after my time at Dance Marathon is to focus on miracles and literally every day, I’ll be bringing a miracle into this world. I know there will be complications and kids who are born with 12 fingers too but I’m still helping them come into this world in their very first moments. I am forever grateful for the opportunity.”