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Miracle Network Dance Marathon has named 27 graduating college and high school student leaders as recipients of the 2021 Miracle Network Dance Marathon Distinguished Leadership Award. The honorees are being recognized for making an exceptional impact within their Dance Marathon program, on their individual campus and for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.

Miracle Network Dance Marathon is an international movement, involving over 400 colleges, universities and K-12 schools across the United States and Canada that fundraise for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. These students work tirelessly throughout the year to raise funds one dollar at a time by making the ask to family and friends. Their hard work culminates in a 6–40-hour celebration on their campus or virtually, where participants have the opportunity to rally together as a community for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. Students involved in Dance Marathon gain valuable skills in fundraising, peer management, delegation and philanthropy. Miracle Network Dance Marathon programs have collectively raised more than $300 million since 1991.

See a historical list of all Miracle Network Dance Marathon Distinguished Leadership Award winners here.

The 2021 Miracle Network Dance Marathon Distinguished Leadership Award recipients are:

Abbie Bowman headshot
Abbie Bowman at Johns Hopkins University.
Abbie adopted the strategy of servant leadership after attending her first Dance Marathon Leadership Conference (DMLC) and implemented a new organizational structure where the executive board had concrete responsibilities and roles, allowing everyone to work together, and feel valued and respected in their work. Read more about Abbie here.

Alli Kimmel
Alli Kimmell at Ball State University.
Alli helped lead the Dance Marathon program through the changes that came as a result of COVID-19, including live-streaming their main event. The stream ended up reaching more than 1,600 people across 32 states and 6 countries and raised over $30,000. Read more about Alli here.

Angelique Ramirez
Angelique Ramirez at Florida Atlantic University. 
While she raised more than $8K during her collegiate years, Angelique says she’s most impacted by the relationships built through Dance Marathon, including those with miracle kids and their families. Read more about Angelique here.

Austin Strom
Austin Strom at University of Iowa. 
Austin plans to begin working in the medical field using artificial intelligence to advance predictive diagnostics because of his involvement with Dance Marathon. “My experience with Dance Marathon has fueled this plan and driven me towards working in the areas of degenerative disease and cancer research.” Read more about Austin here.

Claire Overholt
Claire Overholt at University of Florida.
Claire plans to pursue a medical degree after her inspiring experiences at Dance Marathon. She seeks to “serve those affected by childhood illness as a pediatric physician. Through this organization, I have seen the immense impact that a pediatric physician can have on the lives of not just the children they treat but also on their families and communities.” Read more about Claire here.

Courtney Becker
Courtney Becker at University of Iowa.
With COVID-19 still affecting every aspect of normal campus life, including DM activities, Courtney got innovative and built creative solutions for the unprecedented times facing her program. Courtney saw how the lack of in-person volunteering was affecting the patients at her hospital, so she set up Zoom volunteering shifts, eventually turning that into a YouTube channel where volunteers would post videos doing crafts, yoga exercises, and science experiments. Courtney never let COVID-19 stop her and her team from making an impact. Read more about Courtney here.

Dalia Khaled at Arizona State University. Dalia helped found Sun Devil Dance Marathon at Arizona State, inspired by her younger sister who spent the first three months of her life in a children’s hospital. Dalia worked tirelessly through the pandemic and various restrictions to hold ASU’s first event this past spring which ended up raising more than $10,000. Read more about Dalia here.

Elena Denton
Elena Denton at Loras College.
Elena began her Dance Marathon journey as a participant for Loras College Dance Marathon, but quickly stepped up to more responsibility as a delegate for the Family Committee, eventually serving as Co-President for LCDM. Inspired by the relationships she has built with Miracle Kids through Dance Marathon, Elena hopes to become a Physician Assistant in pediatrics. Read more about Elena here.

Gabriela Torres at Florida International University.
Gabriela joined Dance Marathon as an opportunity to gain student leadership experience but quickly learned that DM lit up an entirely different passion for her. “The person I am today is hands down due to not only my leadership experience within DM but more importantly due to the opportunities I was given from being involved in Roarthon.” Read more about Gabriela here.

Gabrielle Bittner
Gabrielle Bittner at University of Oklahoma.
Gabrielle has learned invaluable lessons about servant leadership during her time in Dance Marathon. “I learned that being a leader meant you needed to walk with those around you instead of walking ahead of them.” Because of the impact COVID-19 was having on campus, Gabrielle wanted to make sure that her committee was a safe place for her members and that the fellowship of Dance Marathon was always present while she led. By leading with intentionality, Gabrielle was able to carve out a safe haven in an uncertain year for her members. Read more about Gabrielle here.

Grace Lady
Grace Lady at University of South Carolina.
Grace knew that when she was feeling challenged, exhausted, and anxious by the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, that her feelings were akin to families undergoing treatment at Prisma Health. Never giving up and finding ways to have hope amongst the craziness, Grace led her team through implementing their very first outdoor event at USCDM. Ultimately, 500 participants came and felt the magic of Dance Marathon due to Grace and her team’s persistence. Read more about Grace here.

Havin Baik
Havin Baik at Windermere High School.
Havin feels that “getting involved with Miracle Network Dance Marathon is the best way to be a part of a counter-cultural movement that promotes selflessness. Through this cause, we are able to be an outlet for unity and a common ground to be shared by all people.” Read more about Havin here.

Ishan Patel
Ishan Patel at The Ohio State University.
As President of the Dance Marathon program in his senior year, Ishan led the strategic growth of BuckeyeThon and oversaw fundraising of $621,979.17 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more about Ishan here.

Jack Green
Jack Green at Louisiana State University. 
Jack spent time volunteering at his local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, which he says allowed him to see first-hand that pediatric hospitals provide so much care beyond just the physical healing. The effort that goes into ensuring kids feel normal and have a bit of fun while getting care is supported directly by the funds Dance Marathon raises. Read more about Jack here.

Jade Furl at University of Louisiana-Lafayette.
Jade helped lead the university’s second-annual Dance Marathon in raising more than $13,600 for their Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. While the event looked significantly different than they expected because of the pandemic, she says they “have set the tone for years to come.” Read more about Jade here.

Jake Sadoway at Stetson University.
Despite the many curveballs thrown at Dance Marathons because of COVID-19, Jake helped lead his program to success in the midst of it all, ultimately bringing together over 300 participants virtually and over 115 miracle makers in-person for the first-ever hybrid event – more than double the previous four years at a typical main event. Read more about Jake here.

Jamie Knox at Leon High School.
As co-executive director, Jamie saw the importance of developing a cause-connection during a year “when hope felt lost.” By showcasing that connection in every single component of their program, they accomplished a new fundraising record, raising a total of $140,181 (a $10,000 increase from the year prior). Read more about Jamie here.

Jonathan Sweeney at Quinnipiac University.
After growing up with a rare medical condition, Jonathan participates in Dance Marathon because of his medical history. “I know firsthand the daily struggle of being poked with an I.V. or spending restless nights attached to wires. Now that I am fortunate enough to give back, I can fight, fundraise, and advocate for children that are in my shoes.” Read more about Jonathan here.

Kelsea Henry at University of Florida.
Kelsea knew that her team would be facing an abnormally large hurdle when they had to plan their largest push day with extremely limited programming. Despite any challenges, they raised nearly $600,000 with far fewer participants than normal. Kelsea also appreciates her experiences on the financial side of Dance Marathon as instrumental in her career path. “I now can successfully pull reports, analyze data, and understand the financial implications. This experience will prove vital in my future career.” Read more about Kelsea here.

Lily Clair at West Virginia University.
Lily helped implement a brand new opportunity at her university, called the MountaineerTHON Leadership Program, targeted towards new students wanting to get involved with Dance Marathon. Expecting only around five students to join the program in the Fall semester, 20 students ended up applying and diving in head first to the Dance Marathon world. Learn more about Lily here.

Logan Muzyka at Trinity University. 
In Logan’s two years as Executive Director, she helped introduce a new committee dedicated to addressing education and advocacy, as well as stewarded the growth of the program from fifteen to forty leaders. Learn more about Logan here.

Madison Faller at Florida State 
University. Madison helped leader the Dance Marathon program through COVID-19, ultimately raising $1.47M for local kids in the midst of a global pandemic. She says, “Dance Marathon is not only a place to call home but is a movement that will change your life. From the relationships, the experiences, the inspirations – your life will never be the same.” Read more about Madison here.

Natalie Gaharan at San Diego State University. 
Natalie helped lead “The Light of Hope ceremony,” an event that kicked off the program’s push day that had a goal of $40,000. Through the challenges of COVID-19 and with the creativity and dedication of Natalie and the team, the program ultimately raised more than $53,700, far surpassing the initial goal and marking the largest amount raised in a single day for DM at SDSU. Read more about Natalie here.

Ryan Athay at Windermere High School.
As a high school freshman, Ryan participated in his school’s inaugural Dance Marathon. He has been involved every year since helping to quickly grow his program to six figures in fundraising. Read more about Ryan here.

Sameeha Saied at Syracuse University.
Sameeha, her sister, and her brother have all been treated in children’s hospitals. Inspired to ensure families who find themselves in similar situations have access to the best care, her “why” always comes down to family. Read more about Sameeha here.

Smriti Gupta at University of Maryland.
Smriti most recently served as the Fiscal Director of the University of Maryland’s Terpthon, but her experience with children’s hospitals goes beyond fundraising. She volunteers with Children’s National and says that her long-term goal is to become a Palliative Care specialist in pediatric medicine in order to improve the quality of life of children with serious illnesses. Read more about Smriti here.

Trent Thompson at Butler University.
As President of Butler University Dance Marathon, Trent led the effort to raise over $278,000 for Riley Hospital for Children, which exceeded the previous year’s total by more than $7,000. Additionally, he raised over $13,000 himself. Read more about Trent here.