Reaching Out: Lori Zucker of Spread Ari’s Light Foundation
spread ari’s light foundation: to support families that have children with cancer and to develop dance therapy programs for young patients
meet founder and president lori zucker of olivette
How long have you been working for this cause?
We started the foundation last August. While my daughter Arianna was in treatment for cancer, she received many therapies, including dance. It had such an impact on her well-being that we became big supporters. After she lost her battle, we thought it was still important to help.
What inspired you to start Spread Ari’s Light?
My daughter was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare cancer that develops in infants and young children, when she was 3 and battled it for nine years. During that time, Arianna was pretty much constantly in treatment. She always loved to dance but wasn’t able to take regular lessons because of her illness. We were inspired by her love of dance and movement therapy, and in Arianna’s memory, we want more children who are sick in the hospital to have the opportunity to participate.
Explain what the organization does.
Our mission is to support families dealing with pediatric cancer, and our main goal is to start dance therapy programs at local children’s hospitals. We are starting to create a program at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and are expanding one already offered at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. We also hope to reach patients who are at home and possibly adapt the program so they can go to a dance studio if they are able. We are a new nonprofit, but we’ve had two very successful events that we look forward to making annual traditions. The first was a challah bake. It was a wonderful experience to have women come together to bake bread and raise funds for dance therapy programs. We also hosted the Ari’s Light Gala at Edison Theatre at Washington University. It was presented by Pazazz Performers, who danced along with professional companies in a phenomenal show. We had silent and live auctions. It was an amazing night and will happen again next spring.
What do you want most for the organization?
It is so important to continue to spread Arianna’s light by supporting other patients in treatment. We want to provide the joy and healing power of dance and movement therapy because it had such an impact on her. I want these kids and their parents to understand that it’s not about how good you are or even how much you love dance. Kids naturally want to get up and move, and it’s a therapy option that young patients really respond to because it allows for activity and movement.
in the words of spread ari’s light foundation: “Lori always has been an amazing friend and mother, but now she is also a great leader. She established Spread Ari’s Light Foundation to further her already amazing advocacy. No one wants to have to become a cancer advocate, but Lori does it with intelligence, grace, friendliness and energy. I am in awe of her positive nature, especially surrounding childhood cancer, and her seemingly unlimited energy to help the cause.”
Photo: Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography