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University of Central Florida Senior Receives 2019 Miracle Network Dance Marathon Distinguished Leadership Award

From the thousands of graduating seniors who have participated in Miracle Network Dance Marathon at the approximately 300 colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada, twenty students were selected to receive the 2019 Miracle Network Dance Marathon Distinguished Leadership Award for making an exceptional impact within their Dance Marathon program, on their individual campus and for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. To see all of this year’s recipients, click here

Hometown: Wellington, Florida

Degree(s): Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences

Dance Marathon Involvement: Over the course of my four years involved with Knight-Thon at the University of Central Florida, I have collectively raised $8,231.41 for Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and served as the Dancer/Team Captain with the Pre-Dental Student Association (2015-2016), a Fundraising Committee member (2016-2017), the Fundraising Director (2017-2018), and the Finance Manager (2018-2019).

Campus/Community Involvement: Outside of Dance Marathon I am also a Member of the Pre-Dental Student Association. I served as the 2016-2017 Secretary Director and then the following year I was elected as the 2017-2018 Secretary of the organization.

Awards/Recognition: Recipient of President’s Honor Roll at UCF Fall 2016-2018; Pre-Dental Student Association (PDSA) Honorary Member Award Fall 2016–Spring 2018; UCF’s Dance Marathon Committee Member of the Year Fall 2016-Spring 2017; Pre-Dental Student Association (PDSA) Officer of the Year 2017-2018

Post-Graduation Plans: After graduation I will be studying for the Dental Admission Test (DAT) and applying to dental school this summer. Once completing the exam and application process this summer, I plan on becoming a certified dental assistant so during my time off until Summer/Fall 2020 I am able to work as a Dental Assistant and gain additional experience, manual dexterity skills prior to entering Dental School.

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

The reason I first became involved with Knight-Thon was because my cousin is a miracle child in London. She benefits from University of Central London Hospital (UCLH), as she is a part of their Premature Baby Developmental Program. She was born early because my Aunt had septicemia, a blood poisoning disease, and she had to be taken out at 24 weeks. She only weighed 585 grams about 1 pound 3 oz. When she was born, the doctors did not think she was going to survive because she ended up having blood poisoning as well. She almost lost her vision because of the excess oxygen at the time of birth. She was in the neonatal unit for three and a half months but luckily she is a beautiful healthy baby girl now. My cousin and these kids are the reason why I wanted to serve Knight-Thon and Orlando’s local Hospital. It’s because I see how much these funds can help and make a difference in someone’s life. While my cousin isn’t directly impacted by a CMN hospital as she is in London, I saw how much it helped my family during a hard time. In 2016, I was a participant in Knight-Thon and I knew then I wanted to be a part of helping kids just like my cousin.

What personal accomplishment/contribution are you most proud of from your involvement in Dance Marathon?

After four years serving Knight-Thon and Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, I look back to my first year of participation and the culmination of that experience as my greatest accomplishment and springboard into what would become my most treasured college experience. As a sophomore, I served on the Fundraising Committee and did everything I could to support my team and our hospital. I would spend hours in our office counting money and taking any opportunity to market our cause through tabling/bucketing. I did not know the vastness of this team yet; I only knew that I wanted to do as much as I could for this cause. Those efforts came to fruition when one of the Captains on our team left days before our 20-hour dance marathon in 2017. As a Knight-Thon Captain they were responsible for overseeing and delegating committee members with responsibilities. As a committee member I was responsible for my tasks already assigned as well as any additional needs for the team. The Finance Manager at the time looked to me to assume that role and I was honored to do even more for our cause. I spent the full 20 hours in the “Cash Cave” counting, crediting, and helping track funds.By the end, our team was pulling me out of the room for Closing Ceremonies, where I was awarded Committee Member of the Year. This award is given to one individual, out of more than 200 committee members, who demonstrates exponential commitment to the cause by going above and beyond always ready to help in any shape or form. I was speechless and shocked at the announcement but felt so thankful for the team who believed in me and saw the passion I had. My dedication and work ethic was never something I brought to the table to get recognition or reward. It is who I am and this cause allowed me to focus it in the direction of Miracle Network Dance Marathon. I continued my Knight-Thon journey as the Fundraising Director, where I planned, organized, and executed our largest fundraising campaign of the Fall semester: Charge on Challenge. Within 24 hours, Knight-Thon challenges its participants to raise $100 and spread awareness for our cause. From a large-scale patio day with a dunk-tank and transport unit presence to a social media campaign that offered resources and fundraising tips to support everyone involved, Charge on Challenge looked and felt like a new event. I feel as though I pushed boundaries and engaged this campus in new, exciting ways that they hadn’t seen before. This event reinvigorated our participants and reminded them of the fun in fundraising. Over the course of 24 hours, our campus was able to unite and collectively raise $169,216.68 benefiting Orlando Health Arnold Palmer. This made me take a step back and realize that this cause truly is something bigger than all of us. This past year, as the Finance Manager, “Charge on Challenge” was one of the many campaigns that I had the pleasure of overseeing and working on. For three years, I have been able to watch Knight-Thon’s largest push day become more and more successful, year after year allowing our campus to focus on both raising funds and awareness for our local CMN Hospital and have fun at the same time. To think that it all started with my own motivation to help others and a group of people who believed in me as much as I believe in this cause during my time as a Finance Committee Member is one of the greatest gifts. This cause changes you and fills you with a greater purpose. A purpose for the kids. Something I will carry with me forever.

How has Dance Marathon impacted you as a student leader? What specific skills have you developed during your involvement?

This organization has allowed me to grow immensely as a leader by pushing me to develop a strong work ethic and cultivating my passion for helping others excel. As a leader of Knight-Thon, I was able to show my team members what they are capable of doing, when they don’t believe in themselves. As the Finance Manager, I oversaw Directors, Captains, and an Impact Team of over 15 students with dreams, goals, and aspirations to help our cause. I led a Partnerships team that went from knowing nothing about the role they would play or the impact they would make, then ended the year having accumulated over $100,000 in sponsorship, almost doubling the total from the previous year. I worked alongside my team during their greatest successes and their hardest struggles. On a team where we may sometimes get stuck in the numbers and the pivot tables keep pivoting until it feels like the world won’t stop spinning, I was able to constantly remind my team why we do what we do. There were many times that I had to put my personal frustrations and stressors aside to remind my team where our money was going and who it was helping. I learned, during my leadership experience, that it will not always be easy but it will always be worth it. When my team set a goal of 1.7 million dollars and we revealed a total of 1.28, my immediate thought was not that we were beneath our goal. I saw three transport trucks or new incubators for the premature babies we serve. I envisioned a better future for our hospital. I have learned, as a person, that this cause and what we do is bigger than ourselves. As a leader, I have gained the ability to facilitate crucial conversations, motivate a team to do anything they can and love every minute, and adapt to the unexpected in the face of adversity. Through participating in Dance Marathon, I developed the ability to adapt quickly to any obstacle that can be thrown at me, especially since looking at numbers and being able to motivate an entire internal team to keep their why and stay encouraged for our participants.

Why should students get involved with Miracle Network Dance Marathon on their campus?

I hope that everyone can have an experience like or similar to mine and that is why I would encourage any student to get involved with Miracle Network Dance Marathon. I meet some of my closest friends through DM. They have taught me what it means to be a part of this generation fighting for the next as well as me teaching them what it means to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. With attending one of the largest universities in the United States it can be hard to find your place but I found a home at Knight-Thon. Being involved in the largest student run philanthropy on campus, you meet various students from all aspects; majors, ethnicities and economic backgrounds. Complete strangers become friends and friends become family all united by a common cause, which is difficult to find when attending such a large university. I will forever hold that we made a difference by the long hours, the hardship, and the passion in the money we raised for CMN Hospitals.

How have you seen your Dance Marathon’s fundraising make an impact at your local CMN Hospital?

Knight-Thon UCF’s Dance Marathon specifically raises funds for Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, in which our funds were used for the greatest area of need in the hospital. The funds that have been raised have helped purchase items including as incubators, mobile transports vehicles, hiring a full time teacher for the Child Life staff, along with a handful of other items.  A part of my responsibilities as finance manager was to keep the tracking documents up to date, which helped tailor our fundraising pushes around hospital facts while raising awareness simultaneously. Every time I updated them I knew that the money our community was raising was going to the greatest area of need for the hospital. As the number increased through pushes, matching, partnerships, K-12 program DM’s, and the everyday efforts of our participants I got to see how all of us can come together to directly fund a hospital that save lives daily.

Miracle Network Dance Marathon is an international movement, involving over 400 colleges, universities and K-12 schools across North America that fundraise for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Since its inception in 1991, Miracle Network Dance Marathon has raised more than $250 million–ensuring that no child or family fights pediatric illness or injury alone.

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