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Building A Foundation 1024 576 Joedance Film Festival

Building A Foundation

A lone man hunched over, peering through a telescope. A group in a sequestered lap, barebones and starving. A hum of electrics, a zap of inspiration, a bolt of energy that helps mankind take the next step. If I was writing a movie, these are ways we like to imagine scientific advancement. But on average, the truth of it is hardly ever this exciting or sudden. It is a slow, plodding advancement. Especially when viewed from outside the ongoings of a lab.

When we started Joedance, I only understood how research worked on the patient end – when Joe was part of a clinical trial. But the time, effort, and resources necessary to push a line of research to that point is no small feat. I learned this, intimately, when we started the Joedance Summer Internship Program.

The start of the program was, frankly, not one of the first things we would help run through Joedance. But when I asked the researchers what they needed most, in the moment, “Hands” was the immediate response. They needed help doing the minutiae that involves the day-to-day running of a lab. Data collation. Running the same experiment over and over, recording the results, and doing it all again the next day. It sounds small, and boring, to those of us not involved, but as I watched these interns work summer after summer and the work of the lab year after year, I realised that what they do is invaluable to the advancement of science – both on a practical level and a personal level.

Whether we fully appreciate it or not, most medical advancements take time. The reason, naturally, is safety. We run experiments under control environments to understand how one thing reacts to another. We alter the variables, run the experiment again, to learn how it reacts in slightly different environments. They look at every individual tree to understand the forest. Through our summer internship, we helped educate patients on the uses and benefits of Healios, a mouthwash that lessens the severity of mouth sores, the Backpack Protocol, which allows patients receive treatment remotely from home, and investigated the impact of integrated medicine on cancer treatment. With our interns, Joedance has walked along side these programs from inception to implementation. And with every step, they have helped improve not only the labs they work in but the lives of the patients that have benefited from their endless work.

But perhaps equally as important, the program allows the medical researchers of the future take their first steps. Roman Rivera, one of past interns, said, “I started this internship with little knowledge about the paediatric haematology/oncology field and in just six weeks I gained a copious amount of knowledge that I can use in medical school.”

As vital as Joedance’s role is in improving the lives of families impacted by cancer, we always keep in mind that this is not a battle we are winning overnight. We must look to the future, and by training the medical researchers of tomorrow by helping them gain a foundation in the field, the Joedance Internship program does just that.

When We Look Closely at the World 150 150 Joedance Film Festival

When We Look Closely at the World


As I got older, I realized that some of the greatest pleasures in life are derived from odd pairings. Like oil and vinegar to dip crusty bread into. Or sweet and salt, like chocolate covered pretzels. Or a rock and roll cover of a country song.

Joedance didn’t start out with an odd pairing in mind. The idea was to take something our family loved to do together and use it in our son’s memory to help fund pediatric cancer research.

Movies and cancer were two things that had occupied the better part of Joe’s short life. Two things that have gone on to define the past years of my family’s life. Two things that, before Joedance, I thought the only common ground between them and Joe were movies about cancer.

But when one gets involved in groups as insular as a local film industry and medical research, one quickly realizes they are more together than they are apart. One must really look closely.

Through the years, Joedance stood as a bridge between these seemingly disparate communities of pediatric oncology research and independent film. And as time has moved ever forward, I realized what Joe found so enthralling about both art and science was a universal truth these things both shared. Those who work in these fields tear atoms apart, peer back at life and predict the end of days. With a handful of equations or color and sound, these pioneers seek to understand the world as it truly is and seek a world that can be.

Joedance has stood as a bridge between these two communities, bringing them together and showing everyone what can one day be possible

A Word From The Clinical Intern, Roman Rivera 900 1024 Joedance Film Festival

A Word From The Clinical Intern, Roman Rivera

Hello everyone, my name is Roman Rivera. I am currently a sophomore at UNC Charlotte studying mechanical engineering, as a pre-med student. This past year I was Joedance’s clinical intern for the summer and winter break. I am so blessed to have received this opportunity to learn, grow, and make adjustments as I progress towards my goal of medical school.

The experience I had at Levine Children’s was priceless and it gave me a new perspective on the medical world. There is no amount of gratitude that will show how consequential this opportunity has been to me. I wanted to take a second and just say thank you for helping me start my path to make a difference in the world.

I started this internship with little knowledge about the pediatric hematology/oncology field and in just six weeks I gained a copious amount of knowledge that I can use for medical school. I worked in the clinic under Dr. Gass who is a pediatric hematologist/oncologist that specializes in neuro-oncology. I had the opportunity to work in the medical records, data mining information that can be used for research, and a new local database at Atrium Health. I searched for specific details in patient’s profiles like what type of tumor they had, what treatment they received, did they have any molecular findings, and if cancer had relapsed. This information can be used for further research and to see if there are any connections that can be made between the patients.

I also had the pleasure to shadow Dr. Gass and Dr. Jacobsen during their clinical visits and during their rounds. These visits and rounds really showed me what it means to be a medical professional, to help someone in need, and to be making a difference in the world. The experiences I had with the patients gave new meaning to the importance of clinical research and the mission of Joedance. As of right now, I am working with Atrium and Dr. Gass. We are beginning a research paper with Dr. Gass that will also be entered into Atrium Health’s database.

Now that my journey has started towards making a difference in the world, everything I do will be in Joe’s legacy, and I want to thank Joedance again for this wonderful opportunity. Before I end this short blog, I wanted to give food for thought. What can we as regular people do to make a difference in this world?

Restaino Family
About Time 1024 679 Joedance Film Festival

About Time

I have come to realize, with the infinite wisdom that hindsight grants, that time is subjective. At least, the measurement of time is subjective.

As a child, with the structures of school and holidays, we demarcate the year with our free time: summer break, Christmas, Spring Break that is neither warm nor long enough.

It shifted, for me, with my job out of college. No more designated breaks, but instead looming deadlines and scrapped together holiday plans and Thursday night drinks, Friday night drinks, Saturday night drinks.

With the birth of my sons, time shrunk and stretched thin. It came suddenly fast: their first steps and first words and first day of school and firsts and firsts and firsts. I started a calendar of swim meets and violin practice and diving competitions.

Then, a phone call, and time shifted again. Weeks in a hospital, longer weeks at home recovering. I measured time in boxsets of DVDs. We watched The Last of the Mohicans for two weeks straight.

Then, even that fell away. For a while, a long and indeterminate while, there was nothing that I could measure time by but a fixed point. With Joe and then, all too soon, Without Joe. I measured time by absence.

Of all the things Joedance has accomplished, the one I honestly never expected was how it broke down time for me again. It divided the year in half: the festival in the summer, the donation of our fundraising to the hospital in the dead of winter. Then again, in monthly board meetings and small promotional events scattered during the year. Over ten years I have measured time this way, and I am still surprised how fast it goes. How energetic and nostalgic the breaking of time makes me feel. Small steps, a few events, the mad rush to the festival, and then suddenly Christmas is upon us.

You never notice time passing unless it is being wasted: running late for an appointment or stuck in traffic. Giving time freely, to break it up and offer it to another, is an incredible act. This year, I want to take my time to thank all of you for giving Joedance a bit of yours, whether it is by participating in our yearly events or by becoming a G.E.M (Give Every Month) or attending our annual film festival. Your time is precious to us, and we are appreciative of every moment you offer us.

I now mark this time of the year by being grateful for each and every one of our supporters.