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Denali Advanced Integration Raises Record $70K For Seattle Children's Hospital, System Integrator's Philanthropic Contributions Hit $4M

Denali CEO Majdi Daher says charitable giving is "interwoven into everything" the Redmond, Washington headquarterd global technology services provider does as an organization.

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On Oct. 29, 8-year-old Sienna Braun, her parents and other patients at Seattle Children's Hospital will celebrate what is known as her second birthday.

On this day one year ago, Sienna received a stem cell transplant at Seattle Children's Hospital that saved her life. The celebration will include a cake and birthday party with nurses and patients singing "Happy Transplant Day."

It is the day that her mother, Janette, and father, Josh, say gave their daughter a "second chance" at life. "Children's Hospital saved Sienna’s life," says Janette. "Children's never gave up [on Sienna]. They didn't ever say we can't do anything more, you need to take your kid home. They just keep going. We are forever indebted to that hospital."

[Related: Denali Co-Founders Honored As Pacific Northwest Entrepreneurs Of Year By Ernst & Young]

Sienna's second chance at life was also a cause for celebration on Sept. 24 at the third annual Denali Dash 5K run and 1K walk for kids -- the fundraising and community celebration of Seattle Children's Hospital hosted by Denali Advanced Integration, a global systems integrator based in Redmond, Wash.

Sienna, who has fought a two-year battle with cancer, and her mom and dad, all participated in the Dash -- which raised $70,000 for Seattle Children's Hospital -- a new record for the annual event. The charitable donation also marked a major milestone in the philanthropy efforts of Denali. With the funds raised from the Dash, Denali has contributed $4 million in a variety of community organizations since its founding 24 years ago by Denali CEO Majdi Daher and his brother Mohamad.

Denali, which was founded by the brothers to help bring their parents and siblings to America in the aftermath of the Gulf War, has made giving back -- or what Majdi calls giving a "hand up" -- a central part of the Denali "Above the Rest" culture of excellence. It is a culture that has paid big dividends in the Pacific Northwest where Denali has a large technology services footprint.

"Sienna's transplant was a trial," says Janette. "If it wasn’t for the generosity of companies like Denali raising funds through the Denali Dash for research, that trial may not have existed and she may not be here."

Sienna's Story
Josh Braun remembers falling to his knees outside of Seattle Children's Hospital, going blank with pain and sobbing after finding out Sienna had cancer. It was in the early morning hours of May 2, 2014, after his daughter had undergone a battery of tests.

Josh had lost his sister, Margie at just 33 years old, to triple negative breast cancer just two years earlier. "Aunt Margie," says Sienna, speaking up as he tells the story.

"When I heard the word ’cancer,’ I didn't hear anything after that," says Josh. "I just cried."

Sienna had arrived at the hospital after running a fever of 103.9 degrees on the evening of April 30, 2014 -- just after her parents had noticed bruising on her body – chalking it up to falls that occurred with Sienna learning to ride a bike.

Once Sienna had been diagnosed with cancer, she spent eight days in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy through a Port-A-Cath – an intravenous catheter placed under the skin for intensive chemo treatments. "It was painful," recalls Janette, her voice breaking with emotion. "You have to allow them to put medicine in her that is going to make her sick to save her life."


Twenty-eight days after the treatment began, Sienna's cancer was in remission. Things were looking up. But that was still just the beginning of a long 14-month journey with daily chemotherapy pills and spinal taps every three months for additional chemotherapy and to check for cancer.

Just one day shy of the critical 14-month mark, the nightmare began again with Sienna's cancer coming back in the form of a leukemia found in her central nervous system. Josh received the news and once again fell to his knees. "I wasn't expecting it," he says. "It was happening all over again."

Sienna was once again required to undergo intensive chemotherapy treatments and plans were put in place for a stem cell transplant. A stem cell donor match was found – a miracle in itself – since the odds of finding a perfect match donor from outside the family for caucasians is about one in five and just one in 10 for other ethnic groups. In Sienna's case, the donor was a 44-year-old male.

The world-renowned stem cell transplant program at Seattle Children's Hospital is one of the blessings made possible from fundraising efforts like the Denali Dash. It is the result of a partnership between Seattle Children's Hospital and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and UW Medicine, referred to as the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA).

Josh says the SCCA is the result of an amazing teamwork between the different organizations "joining forces to save people's lives."

Throughout the two-year-and-five-month ordeal -- all of the "ups and downs," says Josh -- the constant has been the source of strength his family has found in the Seattle Children's family of doctors and nurses.

Sienna's first nurse, Lysen, was a source of great comfort for the family. "She was calming, she put everyone at ease," recalls Josh. "It was just her attitude and the way she went about everything always with a smile on her face. We still talk to her."

Sienna, for her part, says: "The nurses are great. They are really fun. They try to cheer you up when you are down. They're amazing. They are like family."

Marques Mar Returns To The Dash

One of the amazing things about the Dash is the increasing participation of the many patients whose lives have been touched by Seattle Children's Hospital.
This year's Dash marked the return of 17-year-old Marques Mar, who has been through five open heart surgeries at Seattle Children's Hospital -- the latest a pacemaker replacement just three months before the event.

The indefatigable Mar, who was feted at the Denali Dash in 2014, had his first open heart surgery at Seattle Children's when he was just four days old and has had two open heart surgeries over the course of the last year.

"I feel really good," said Mar, preparing to take part in the walk. "I am really happy to be here. It has been kind of scary. I wasn’t sure I could walk really long anymore. But I went through that surgery and feel pretty good. I am really happy to be here to raise money for Children's Hospital and give back to the community."

Mar, who got his driver's license in April, is looking forward to driving once he recovers fully from surgery and dreams of one day owning his own car company. "I am really enthusiastic about the automobile industry," he said. "I am really excited to see what I can do in the future."


Marques' mom, Marji, said she is forever grateful to Seattle Children's and Denali for stepping up to help children of all ages. "Majdi does so much for the community," says Marji. "For him to gather all these people and to raise awareness is incredible. This touches so many lives. We are so grateful and appreciative for what Majdi has done. We wanted to come and support it. It's a great event."

Support From The Technology Community

It's not just the local community and the more than 500 participants that support the Dash, which has become one of the premier fundraising events within in the technology services business.

Denali technology partners, including BlueStar, Zebra, Cisco, Dell EMC, Ingram, APC, Samsung, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, HP, Tech Data, VMware, Citrix, Cohesity and Rubbermaid, are big supporters of the annual event.

The Dash is preceded each year by the Denali Summit, where Denali's customers are treated to an afternoon of educational sessions from industry experts on the fast-moving technology industry from the threat of ransomware and the defensive moves that can be taken vis a vis Cisco to the all-out charge to modernize legacy applications for the new mobile-first world from Zebra Technologies.

Rob Dorsey, vice president of sales for BlueStar, the premier mobility distributor and a longtime supporter of Denali's charitable efforts, says the Dash is a tribute to Denali’s unwavering commitment to give back to the community.

Regardless of the torrid pace of change in the technology business, over the course of its 24-year history Denali "always finds a way to bring it back to the community," says Dorsey. "Hosting the Summit at the Mercer Island Community Center is a perfect example. We are sitting in a room that has been used for yoga and today is going to be used to showcase Zebra Technology health-care solutions."

The passion, commitment and community focus behind the Dash mirrors how Denali Advanced Integration builds breakthrough solutions for customers, said Dorsey. "The Dash is an example of the Denali team creating solutions," he said. "Denali is in the shadow of the largest and most successful software company in the history of the world – Microsoft – and yet they find a way to make this event personal for all of their vendor partners."

Dorsey said BlueStar, a perennial Dash supporter and a large cystic fibrosis donor, doubled the dollars it commits to sponsorship of the Dash in part in response to Majdi's unselfish commitment to continually give back to the community.

"Every year, Majdi gets up and gives away more than he has because he always gives more than he has," said Dorsey. "Partners that give back and don't always take -- that is rare. It is truly a partnership with Denali. Our relationship is 50-50 – we both put all our effort into it. It becomes family. It becomes personal. And that's what business should be. You should be committed to the people you are working with and Majdi, the Daher family and the Denali team are all committed to their suppliers, partners and customers."

Even though Denali is a global "corporate powerhouse," the culture of family and community is pervasive, said Dorsey. "They could have created an ivory tower experience, instead they have created a local storefront experience," he says. "It feels local, but it is international. It is not just local here in Seattle. It is local everywhere. They think globally, but they act locally. That is huge. It is family. It is friendly."

Lucy Hartung, national account manager for Dell EMC, said what separates Denali from the rest of the solution provider pack is its "local" touch and its ability to provide end-to-end solutions for customers. "They provide a full portfolio of solutions and they always bring it back to the community -- giving back," she says. "That is important. In order to be successful as a business you need to provide more than just what you are selling – you need to provide what the community needs. It translates back to building a better community. A lot of it comes down to passion. Majdi believes in the community, the technology and doing what is best for customers."


Support From The Local Community

This year, the Dash once again became a community celebration with support from Seattle's finest including popular Seattle Power 93.3 DJ Kat Fisher, the Seahawks Blue Thunder drum line and the best of Seattle's food trucks including Veraci Pizza (rated best in North America by Food Network), Dante's Inferno Dogs, and Hallava Falafel.

Former Seahawks quarterback Dave Krieg, who has attended every Denali Dash and accompanies a child and their family to the Seahawks game each year after the event, says the Dash is chance to give back to the community and give thanks for his own good fortune. "I have healthy kids and when you see the kids and parents you see how difficult they have it," he says. "This lets them know we care. Hopefully it helps."

Esteban Maldonado and Josu Garai, students at DigiPen Institute of Technology, Redmond, a leader in computer interactive technologies and gaming, both ran their first Denali Dash. They applauded not only Denali's charitable efforts for Seattle Children's Hospital but its ability to bring the entire Redmond community together. "We had a blast," said Maldonado. "It's great to see Denali giving back. Good health is everything."

Garai said he was inspired by Denali's ability to bring together all members of the community from mothers wheeling small children in strollers to adults and seasoned runners. "This is a great way to support a good cause," he said.

Eve Kopp, the development director for Seattle Children's Hospital who participates in the Dash each year, says Denali's philanthropic efforts are making a difference in the battle for a cure for cancer.

"We would like to eradicate cancer especially pediatric cancer in the next five or 10 years," she says, noting the funds from the Dash go directly to cancer research. "There are cures for leukemia -- we use immunotherapy treatments harnessing the power of a child's immune system to fight cancer cells. We have that knowledge but we've got to get FDA approval and we can only treat one cancer at a time. It can't be done fast enough. These kids can't wait any longer. Philanthropy is the only way we can get there."

The dream to eliminate pediatric cancer is a cause that has been one of the shining lights in Denali's longtime philanthropic efforts. As the company gears up for its 25th anniversary and preparations begin for the 2017 Denali Dash, Daher says he is more confident than ever that he will see a cure in his lifetime.

’At Denali Advanced Integration, charitable giving is interwoven into everything we do as an organization," said Daher. "Core values you can find on the walls of our offices include the words ’Philanthropy’ and ’Family’ and the Denali Dash is a great way to bring those ideals to life and raise awareness and funds to support Seattle Children’s Hospital and their mission to eradicate pediatric disease. The amazing courage of Sienna Braun and other young patients at Seattle Children’s and the memories we create when the community comes together will continue to fuel our unwavering commitment to making giving an integral part of everything we do.’

Katie Faith, event manager for Seattle Children's Hospital, said Denali's tireless charitable efforts are saving children's lives. "Denali is like a rock," she says. "They are there. It feels like something you can count on. They are creating change in the community. We are so grateful."

Faith said each year Denali makes the event special for Seattle Children's Hospital patients. "They are so kind to the kids," she says. "We are so grateful for that. This is hands down the most fun day ever. The weather is perfect every year -- I don't know how Majdi and Denali do it. It is just world class. The support is incredible. "

As for Sienna, Faith said she is an inspiration for all members of the Seattle Children's Community: "When Sienna talks to people she is so kind and so sweet. She sees the impact all of this has on kids like her. It's pretty special."

Sienna remains undaunted by the road ahead. When asked the message she has for other children battling cancer, she says, it is important to stay positive and "never fear."

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