Published: June 16, 2020
Allied Health Major Has Heart of Gold
In 2015, while still in high school, Jordan Belous ’21 posted a video of herself on social media doing the popular dance, “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” by Silentó. Belous tagged the video with #WhipPediatricCancer and challenged her friends and family to dance or donate. Her 14-second video went viral within hours, and Belous was on her way to making an impact.
Belous, who formed the nonprofit Whip Pediatric Cancer (WPC), said there have been over 10,000 WPC videos posted to social media from all 50 states and over 47 countries.
“I had no idea the magnitude a 14-second video would have on the rest of my life,” said Belous, an allied health major with a concentration in physical therapy sciences.
Belous said her passion for advocating for pediatric cancer patients comes from having watched her mom fight and beat Ewing’s sarcoma, a bone cancer commonly found in children. Belous’ mom was an adult when she was diagnosed but was treated on the pediatric cancer floor of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
“When she got better, our family made it our mission to help families who have been affected by the disease,” said Belous.
Her mother and father help with certain aspects of WPC: Her mother goes on patient visits with her and ships out Heart of Gold packages, a way schools get involved in raising awareness through her organization. Belous’ father also helps with the website and technical aspects. The rest, from running the social media to coordinating events, is all done by Belous.
Belous said WPC has raised over $400,000, 100% of which has gone to pediatric cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering.
“The results have been astonishing,” said Belous. “It gives families who lost hope more hope.”
Belous’ main fundraising initiative is the Heart of Gold program. Each year WPC posts a program kick-off video and encourages their followers to share with their school teachers. Schools sign up for the program on the WPC website and receive a free Heart of Gold kit that includes gold paper hearts for each of the school’s students and a WPC bracelet and t-shirt for the ambassador.
The hearts are given out to students to decorate and then put on display at the school entrance to show they have a “heart of gold.” Students are also asked to bring in a suggested donation of $2.
“It teaches students that they are never too young to make a difference, and no donation is ever too small,” said Belous.
So far over 2,000 schools across the globe have participated in the program, and she has more than 107,000 followers engaged on the WPC Facebook.
Her organization also hosts events for kids and families affected by pediatric cancer throughout the year, including Skate for Gold, where families and kids are invited to ice skate for free at a New York rink. All the people involved in the event — including the face painter, princesses and photographers — are volunteers.
Belous has also had the opportunity to grow personal relationships with some of the kids and their families at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Since 2015, Belous has met with 105 children with cancer: 38 of them are still undergoing treatment, 42 are survivors and 25 have since passed away.
Belous, of Melville, NY, visits the children at Memorial Sloan Kettering throughout the year, and then stays in contact with them and their families through social media and FaceTime.
“I have been able to meet children from as far as New Zealand and South Africa,” said Belous. “I have met amazing people who I probably never would have had the opportunity to meet if it weren’t for Whip Pediatric Cancer.”
When in New York, Belous typically visits the children once or twice a week, and while she’s away at school in Tampa, she visits primarily through FaceTime two to three times a month. Since the impact of COVID-19, the hospital has limited the number of family members allowed to come into the cancer center with the children, and Belous is no longer able to visit in person.
To stay connected, she has been FaceTiming kids about four times a day to share jokes and help get their minds off of the crazy situation.
“These people have become family to me,” said Belous. “FaceTiming them brings me as much joy as it does the kids and families; pandemic or not I promised to help them and be there for them through their dark times.”
After graduating next year, Belous hopes to attend graduate school, get her doctorate in physical therapy sciences and become a physical therapist in a pediatric oncology clinic. Her career choice is a direct result of her friendship with a 4-year-old girl who had been bedridden for three weeks. Belous continued to visit with the girl over the following months and saw her gradually get stronger, dance and jump. Witnessing this made Belous realize that she wanted to work as a physical therapist.
Still, Belous plans on continuing her efforts with WPC as long as she can. Although it's difficult at times, she says it’s well worth it to see kids get better.
“Sometimes after a visit I come home and cry,” said Belous. “But when I’m with the kids, my mission is to allow them to forget, even if it’s only for a minute, what they’re going through. When we are together, we’re just having a good time, healing cancer with laughter.”
Story by Mallory Culhane '21, journalism major