Feature Story

'I'll Always Carry Marlie's Story with Me When I Practice'

In memory of Marlie Kai Dodson, a promising nursing student gets valuable scholarship assistance


After her daughter Marlie’s death from pediatric cancer in 2011, Sarah Dodson, ’01, established a permanent tribute in the form of an endowed scholarship. It supports future caregivers in the UCF College of Nursing because of the impact Marlie’s nurses — many of them UCF nursing grads — had on her during her stays at Arnold Palmer Hospital.

The scholarship was awarded for the first time this year to Bryce Catarelli, a student who, Sarah says, “has every quality that we loved and appreciated about Marlie’s nurses: passion, drive, sympathy, and an appreciation of life. Marlie would have loved her.”

Sarah Dodson (right) with scholarship
recipient Bryce Catarelli

Catarelli is honored to be the scholarship’s first recipient. “[Receiving] the scholarship was such a blessing, not only allowing me the financial means to continue my educational journey, but also putting me in contact with Sarah and her family,” she says. “I’ll always carry Marlie’s story with me when I practice.”

She continues, “Being a nurse goes beyond the coursework and studying; it places you at the bedside with individuals and families and allows you to provide compassionate care when they need it most. I’m forever grateful for the profession I’m in because it is such a gift.”

Establishing the scholarship was just one way that Sarah has continued to honor Marlie. She and her family — a proud group of Knights which includes Marlie’s aunts Jennifer Agnew, ’94, April Agnew, ’97, and Rebecca Dodson, ’11, and uncle Robert Agnew, ’99 — have formed MarlieMade, the name given to any event or action inspired by Marlie Dodson. “It’s hard to think about a child being sick,” says Sarah. “And sometimes the images [of sick children] prevent people from becoming involved, even though they might want to.” The group’s mission is to support children going through cancer treatments; to increase awareness about the need for pediatric cancer research; and to raise money for nurses through the Marlie Kai Dodson Endowed Pediatric Oncology Nursing Scholarship at UCF.

Sarah recently traveled to Washington, D.C., for Call to Action for Childhood Cancer Research, a two-day event focusing on advocating funding for pediatric research, and also participated in Light Up the World for Pediatric Cancer, an event at Lake Eola in honor of childhood cancer month.

She and her family also have a twice-yearly tradition to share a meal with the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House as they go through treatments. They also raise money through selling decorative headbands and donate the profits back to cancer research and the UCF scholarship.

“Marlie taught us so much,” says Sarah. “To just grab onto the good in things and take care of people. That’s what we’re trying to do to honor her memory.”

How You Can Help

If you'd like to learn more about or contribute to the In Memory of Marlie Kai Dodson, Endowed UCF Oncology Nursing Scholarship, please  contact development officer Katie Korkosz, '04, at 407.823.1600 or katiek@ucf.edu.

You may also make an online gift at the College of Nursing's donation page. Simply select "Other" for your designation and enter "Marlie Kai Dodson Scholarship" into the text box.

© University of Central Florida Foundation, Inc. 2017