40th Annual Dancing in the Woods Raises Nearly $550,000 For Melodies Center

Dancing in the Woods attendees stand to applaud two Melodies Center patients, Olivia Allen, seated left, and Charli Martin, seated right, after a video presentation sharing the girls’ experience with the Melodies Center.

Dancing in the Woods raised nearly $550,000 for the Melodies Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at the Bernard & Millie Duker Children's Hospital.

In its 40th year, the region’s premier holiday gala drew more than 600 people. It was held Dec. 2 at the Riverview Innovation Center in Menands.

The event program included a video that told the story of two Melodies Center patients, 18-year-old Olivia Allen of Saratoga Springs and 11-year-old Charli Martin of Burnt Hills. Both were diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in the same week, and quickly became best friends. They, and their families, have leaned on each other through their journeys.

To honor 40 years of the event and Albany Medical Center staff’s work to treat childhood cancer and blood disorders, the video also featured Melodies Center patients and their families from throughout the years. An animated timeline played during the gala that looked back on 40 years of milestones for the child cancer program.

Dennis P. McKenna, MD, president and CEO of the Albany Med Health System and John D. Picotte Family Distinguished Chair of Leadership, and Elizabeth Warner, MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer for title sponsor CDPHP addressed the crowd to welcome guests and thank sponsors and health care workers.

“We are so thankful for everyone who came out to support our Melodies Center,” said Katharine Halligan, MD, PhD, director of the Melodies Center. “For 40 years, Albany Medical Center has been the region’s only pediatric cancer and blood disorder treatment center. It allows thousands of families to stay close to home while their child is undergoing treatment. The community’s support allows us to continue offering a high level of care, and to continue making miracles.”

The Melodies Center team includes highly skilled pediatric hematologists and oncologists, nurses, social workers, case managers, child life specialists, researchers, and more.

Dancing in the Woods started as a small holiday gathering in 1983. The event has raised more than $12 million to support the Melodies Center, which treats patients from 25 counties in northeastern New York and western New England. The center treats more than 1,400 children each year with cancer and blood disorders.