CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. — Thomas More University’s dance team embodies a core value of the University’s mission, as they act upon “their responsibility to others” through service and making a difference in the community. They are certainly making a difference in the life of young cancer patient, Marley Johns. Johns, an 8-year-old battling a brain tumor, was introduced to the Thomas More dance team in late 2021 through Team IMPACT, a national nonprofit that connects children with serious illnesses or disabilities with college athletic teams.
“Marley has been able to attend practices (where she both watched and participated), games, and even her very first dance competition,” says Marley’s mother, Teresa Johns. “She got to be with the girls on the floor during the (NAIA) awards, and the smile on her face was one I hadn’t seen in a long time. When we were in the car on the way home from the competition Marley said ‘Mom, this is a day that I will never forget.’ With all of the tough stuff this little girl has gone through in her short life, that line has resonated in my heart daily since.”
In early March 2022, Marley joined the Thomas More University dance team on a trip to Ann Arbor as they competed against other top-ranked competitive cheer and dance teams at Eastern Michigan University for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Competitive Cheer and Dance National Championships.
“When we agreed to welcome a Team IMPACT athlete to our program, I think we all assumed our team would make an impact on her in some way, but we weren’t expecting the impact she would make on us in return, especially in such a short amount of time,” says Kara Thompson, head coach of the Thomas More University dance team. “She has given many of our student-athletes a sense of purpose, and I really think we have just scratched the surface. Marley, and her family, are so special to our team, and I know they will be members of our dance family forever. Our program is stronger because of Marley; we are the lucky ones.”
The Thomas More dance team’s support of Marley does not stop at University events. Members of the team have shown up to cheer Marley on in her own endeavors as well, attending basketball games and a “fashion show” fundraiser for pediatric cancer patients that she was walking in. “The joy Marley feels when she sees them cheering HER on is surely unmeasurable, but is written all over her face,” says Johns. “You can see her confidence grow tenfold.”
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