When Molly Noterman’s roommate dragged her to a Child Advocacy Studies Club meeting during her freshman year at Winona State University in 2015, she had no idea what she was getting into or how much the experience would impact the next few years of her life.

Noterman grew up watching her parents struggle to provide the best life possible for her younger brother, Will, who has Down syndrome and autism and was born with a hole in his heart.

Going to that first meeting was a random occurrence, but the idea of helping kids like her brother just clicked, she said.

Usually shy and nervous, Noterman was suddenly filled with confidence and a purpose. She helped organize WSU’s first ever WarriorThon Dance Marathon for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and even participated in the all-day dance event.

“I went home that night with aching feet and an inspiration to make a difference,” Noterman recalled.

That sense of inspiration led her to become a founding member of WSU’s Warriors For The Kids club, a group of students dedicated to WarriorThon and raising awareness, support and funds for children within the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

The third annual WarriorThon Dance Marathon will be held from 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, in East Hall, Kryzsko Commons. Cost of attendance is $15 in advance and $20 at the door, with proceeds benefitting local children and families with the Children’s Miracle Network at Gundersen Health System.

The first two years of the fundraiser raised a combined $11,921. This year, the club has a goal of raising $7,500.

While a DJ keeps the tunes going all afternoon and evening on Saturday for participants to “Hula for our Heroes,” there will also be games, food and stories from local Children’s Miracle Network heroes like Willa Krase.

Willa was gearing up for Halloween 2013 when the then-9-year-old was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes, often called juvenile diabetes. The diagnosis has been a big learning curve for the family, but Willa has become self-sufficient and open to others about managing her disease, said her father, Ethan Krase, a professor in WSU’s English department.

The Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals provided Willa the opportunity to attend a camp for children with diabetes, allowing her to connect and engage with children her own age facing a similar plight. Now 12 years old, Willa was asked this year to serve as a “hero” for the network, sharing her story on the radio, in the newspaper and eventually on a billboard.

Willa will also be featured as a hero at the WarriorThon, along with other children from the Children’s Miracle Network at Gundersen Health System.

“She’s the sort of kid who does all of this with humble generosity because, as she put it, ‘CMN helped me, so I want to do what I can to help other kids who are going through hard times,’” Ethan said.

For more information on WarriorThon, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/354983234832708/ or contact Aurea Osgood at aosgood@winona.edu.

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Samantha Stetzer

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