“I feel like it's very important to raise money for the Children's Hospital,” 9-year-old Emma Whyte said while addressing the audience at this year’s Virginia Dance Festival, “because not only does it show them that we're grateful for what they do, it gives them money to help save the lives of more kids like me and get us back to doing what we love to do—like dancing.”
Emma started taking dance lessons from Jessica Morgan, the organizer of the dance festival, when she was two years old. She’s now dancing four days a week, taking ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical, musical theater and “anything and everything we let her take,” said her dad, Michael. “Her life’s ambition is to be a dance teacher and own her own studio.”
That ambition was put on hold two years ago when Emma experienced acute abdominal pain and ended up in a local emergency room where she was diagnosed with an unknown birth defect that was impacting her kidneys. Her parents brought her to see C.D. Anthony Herndon, MD, FAAP, FACS, Professor of Surgery/Urology, Division Chief Pediatric Urology, Co-Surgeon-in-Chief, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR), and Children’s Hospital Foundation Endowed Chair in Pediatric Urology. She had her first surgery in December 2016, and additional surgeries followed in the springs of 2017 and 2018.
“It was a scary time,” Michael recalled, “but we had clear information and knew Emma would be ok. Being at Children’s Hospital was an incredible experience. Everyone there is so geared toward kids.”
When Michael, who recently opened Parham Dental Group, learned about this year’s Virginia Dance Festival, he was excited to support a community event that combines Emma’s love of dance with a benefit for Children’s Hospital Foundation. He signed on as a gold sponsor of the 19th annual event, which was held on Feb. 24 at James River High School. More than 400 dancers from 43 dance companies performed traditional and cultural dances during the event’s afternoon and evening performances, which raised $14,000 this year and more than $228,500 since its inception.
While Emma didn’t dance in this year’s event, she hopes to in the future.
“Dancing is a time I see Emma shine,” Michael said. “We’re grateful the doctors at CHoR have made it possible for her to be able to dance again.”