Denali Dash Raises $60,000 To Benefit Seattle Children's Hospital

Denali CEO Majdi Daher, Alyssa Bowen and Katie Fath.

For the two weeks leading up to the Denali Dash community road race for Seattle Children's Hospital, 16-year-old Alyssa Bowen, who has been battling autoimmune disease since she was 4, could not attend school because she was so sick with mouth ulcers that it was difficult for her to eat.

But on race day Saturday, Bowen was at the Redmond City Hall Campus Park cheering on some 444 community members who came to run a 5K road race and 1K Children Fun Run as part of a fund-raiser and celebration of the renowned hospital. Bowen and three of her friends cheered runners as they crossed the finish line and handed out gift bags to race participants.

"It's been pretty difficult," said Bowen, speaking about the days leading up to the Denali Dash. "It feels like someone literally took a knife to your mouth. Sometimes it is just really difficult to talk to my friends. I miss them a lot. It is not fair that I have to go through this, but I feel like it has made me a better person because I have been able to speak for other people that don't have a voice and go through things similar to me."

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On race day, Bowen, sporting a Denali Dash T-shirt and a bright smile on a warm Indian summer day, spoke for the thousands of children helped by Seattle Children's Hospital each year. "I just wanted to thank you all," Bowen told the crowd, speaking from the stage set up in the park. "It means a lot to me and the people that receive the best medical care [at Seattle Children's Hospital] that can't always afford it. Thank you for being here and supporting us."

This year the Denali Dash, which is put on each year by Redmond, Wash.-based Denali Advanced Integration, one of the most highly respected technology solution providers in the country, raised $60,000 for Seattle Children's Hospital and for the hospital's Research Institute, which is working on cures for all kinds of pediatric diseases.

The fund-raiser is more than a way for Denali and its technology partners to give back. It is also a celebration of the gift of life and all that Seattle Children's Hospital does for the community.

"There are a lot of kids like Bowen who go to Seattle Children's Hospital every day," said Denali CEO Majdi Daher, addressing the families enjoying pizza, tacos and hot dogs as kids with their faces painted as animal characters donned balloon hats and chased each other throughout the park. "We are very, very fortunate to have an organization like Seattle Children's Hospital in our community. Thank you all so much for everything you do every day. When we raise money it is not just the amount of money we raise for the organizations we support. It is also about raising awareness. It is very important for you to know about the great organizations that give us the extra days that are so precious in our lives. That allows us to stay with our families and enjoy our days -- beautiful days like this."

Daher, who has made giving back to the community a centerpiece of the Denali culture, presented an oversized check to Bowen and Katie Fath, a giving and events specialist for Seattle Children's Hospital.

"Your support means everything to the hospital," Fath told the wildly cheering crowd after the check was presented to her and Bowen." We rely on our community to rally around us so we can provide the best care for all the kids in our region. You are supporting life-saving research that will help find cures and new treatments."

Daher, who has led a number of fund-raising campaigns to help find a cure for pediatric cancer, noted that Seattle Children's Hospital has made much progress in curing children's cancers. "That is an amazing testament to what Seattle Children's Hosptial is doing," he said. He expressed hope that some day soon Seattle Children's Hospital will help prevent pedicatric cancers.

Bowen's mother, Lari Christina Bowen, said Seattle Children's Hospital has always been there for her daughter, who has more than once spent her birthday and holidays at the hospital.

Bowen's mother said Seattle Children's Hospital has been indefatigable in its drive for a cure. "They have worked so hard to find different medications to help her," she said. "They are just really amazing."

The hard work of doctors has allowed Bowen, a junior at Bothell High School, to attend school and even play tennis for the junior varsity team. "It felt pretty awesome," said Bowen, who is looking forward once again to joining her tennis teammates next spring. "I had never been on a sports team before. I even ended up winning one time 6-0 against another girl."

Bowen, the oldest of four Bowen children, was first diagnosed with the unknown disease at the same time that her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. "She inspired me because when I was going through my cancer treatments I needed to be stronger for her," said Lari Bowen.

Seattle Children's Hospital came to the aid of the family, which was saving for a home at the time and faced hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical debt. "We thought we were going to have to make payments for the rest of our lives," said Lari Bowen. "I couldn't sleep. We needed this special care for her and we didn't know how we were going to pay for that. The uncompensated care plan kicked in for us. We could never afford it."

Bowen's autoimmune disease and the breast cancer diagnosis ripped the Bowen's world apart, said Lari Bowen. "We thought we had our health and were young," he said. "You just have to lean on each other and be honest if you are having a bad day and know it is going to be better tomorrow."

Listening to the "Rocky" theme "Eye of The Tiger" pumping up the runners making the final sprint for the finish line, Lari Bowen said she often thinks of her daughter's determination when she hears the song. She said it has been inspiring to see her daughter battle the disease and comforting to know that Seattle Children's Hospital is behind her and her family every step of the way.

"They have given her the springboard to get to the next level," said Lari Bowen. "To have her involved in research programs means so much to me because she has this illness nobody can diagnose. Alyssa is an intelligent, beautiful person who is going to go far in life thanks to Seattle Children's Hospital."

A Celebration Of The Seattle Community

The Denali Dash, which this year attracted twice as many race participants as last year, has established itself as a celebration of the best of Seattle with local food truck favorites like El Camion, Versace Pizza and Dante's Inferno Dogs returning year after year, capped off with a dance party powered by Seattle 70's group Hit Explosion.

The Seattle Seahawks have also been big Denali Dash supporters with the Seahawks Blue Thunder drum line pumping up the runners before the race and Seahawks cheerleaders cheering runners as they cross the finish line.

Dave Krieg, the former Seahawks quarterback who ranks as one of the all-time great passers in the NFL, shows up every year to help raise funds and to personally reach out to those children being served by the hospital. "It is important to me because I am grateful I have got three healthy kids," said Krieg.

"Majdi does a great job supporting the community. He does a lot of good work."

Erick Aguayto, 25, the winner of the 5K race at 18:59 seconds, said the cause inspired him to run faster. "It motivates me more to come out here and support the community," he said. "Children are number one. To be out here supporting a great cause just makes it more fun. It is awesome."

Aguayo, who works for Merriman, a wealth services management company, thanked Denali for supporting Seattle Children's Hosptial. "It is one of the reasons kids are able to get help," he said. "It is priceless. I am just happy to be a part of the effort and contribute."

Making Giving Back A Cultural Imperative

Denali partners, employees and community members say the company has set a new standard for giving back to the community. "Denali gives until it hurts," said Rob Dorsey, vice president of BlueStar, a mobility distributor based in Hebron, Ky., which has participated in Denali fund-raising events for the past six years. "Majdi understands that you have to nurture not only business relationships but your relationship with the community. He understands that it is the obligation of a business to look at your surroundings, understand what your role is and give as much as you can."

Jennifer Rolfes, a sales representative for Denali Advanced Integration, said Denali's charitable contributions was one of the reasons she joined the company. "I am very, very proud of what the organization does for charities," she said. "You see some competitors doing things nationally. Denali does things locally for the community like Seattle Children's Hospital. Majdi is involved with so many different charity organizations and it doesn't get noticed enough."

Mark Cessna, a 40-year industry veteran who is a business development manager for Citizens America Corp., which partners with Denali, said the company's generosity is part of the "above the rest" Denali culture. "It brings tears to your eyes when you think of their generosity," he said.

Daher, for his part, credits his technology vendor partners – including Platinum sponsors Cisco, EMC and Hewlett Packard Enterprise – for stepping up in a big way once again to support Seattle Children's Hospital. "They all did a fantastic job," he said. "We thank them so much for their contributions."

Daher says that the Denali Dash is his company's way of raising the awareness of all the good work that Seattle Children's Hospital is doing for the community. "There is over $120 million in charity care that Seattle Children's Hospital provides to families that cannot afford it," he said. "Without donations and contributions, their existence would be impossible. What we give is a fraction of what they need. We are very fortunate to be living in the Seattle metropolitan area where there is a lot of giving."

Daher says the Denali Dash has become a "personal passion" and a deep-seated part of his plan to make Denali a multi-generational family company. Twenty-three members of the Daher extended family, including Majdi's three brothers, sister, and nephews, nieces, in-laws and grandkids, participated in the Denaili Dash. All the members of Daher family gather each year before the race for a family photograph.

"To have a multi-generational family company you cannot look at the communities that you serve as just places for you to work, they are the places where your family and the next generation is going to be brought up," he said. "All of the Dahers get excited about the event each year. You must have a sense of community and family. This is the Daher family giving back. When we see someone in need we lend a hand."

Bowen, for her part, says she is grateful to the Denali family for stepping up and supporting Seattle Children's Hospital. "It is pretty amazing what they have done for the hospital," she said. "I really appreciate it a lot."