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College of Charleston 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: Clover, South Carolina

Degree(s): Bachelor of Science in Biology; Minor in Psychology

Dance Marathon Involvement: Over the course of my four years involved with Charleston Miracle at the College of Charleston, I have collectively raised $9,979 for the the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and served as a participant (2015-2016), the Special Events Chair (2016-2017), Vice President of External Operations (2017-2018), and Executive Director (2018-2019).

Campus/Community Involvement:

• Habitat for Humanity Intern/volunteer (2015-2016)
• Chucktown Trippintones (acapella group) – Vice President/President
• Charleston 40 (Campus Tour Guide Association)
• CARES Clinic Volunteer – (2016-2018) family medicine office for uninsured patients
• Alpha Epsilon Delta (Pre-health honor society) – Member (2015-2019), Social Events Chair (2017-2018)
• MUSC Undergraduate Research – 2,000 hours of research under direction of Dr. Sugi. I helped collect data on cardiac development for BMP-Notch interaction in the current cardiac valvulogenesis project of Dr. Sugi.
• Admissions Visitor Services Representative (2016-2019)
• Pre-Health Peer Facilitator: Under the supervision of Karen Eippert, I am one of three pre-health professional peer mentors. I aid students in course scheduling throughout their college experience, finding volunteer, and shadowing opportunities, and host several events relating to the medical field for them to attend.
• Beyond George Street Peer Facilitator: As a peer facilitator for the Honors College, we aim to help students throughout their first semester here at the College of Charleston. The main goal of the position is to support a small group of Honors College students so that they can become fully equipped, independent students.

Awards/Recognition:

• The President Leo I. Higdon Outstanding Leadership Award (2019) – This award recognizes a nominee who exemplifies the highest standards of professional, social, and cultural leadership – one who has given freely of time and energy to the promotion of excellence in education.
• Inducted into the Hall of Leaders (2019) – The Hall of Leaders recognizes leaders of student organizations that have specific governing responsibilities at the College. Through this award, a member of each organization is recognized for his or her continuous contribution to the campus community
• Organizational President of the Year (2018-2019) for Charleston Miracle
• Outstanding Service to First-Year Students (2019)

Post-Graduation Plans: I plan on taking a gap year while applying to medical school to become a pediatric physician. I have applied for a position through the College of Charleston (CofC) where I will mentoring students through a transition program. I will spend the first semester in London and the second semester back at CofC.

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

When I was a freshman, I walked into my first dance marathon as a performer in my acapella group. I had no idea what this organization was or what it even was about. However, it was a defining moment in my college career. When I found out about the Dance Marathon movement, I had immense feelings of awe, curiousness, and clarity. I have found that my true happiness and satisfaction comes from the success and health of others; I realized that Dance Marathon aligned directly with this passion. I have had the opportunity to lead a healthy and happy life, but so many don’t have this option. I joined this fight so that I can be the helping hand for those who need it, the listening ear to families who are struggling, and the educating voice to spread the stories and legacies of these patients and their families. On the community side, I do Dance Marathon because it allows me to surround myself around people who have a similar interest as me — seeing the successful growth of the next generation. At the same time, Dance Marathon has solidified my identity at CofC. Truly, it has made me more comfortable with who I am and who I want to be (pretty awesome). This organization has allowed me to remain centered around my core passions and aspirations, and I am so lucky to know that this is a nationwide community, spreading from coast to coast. 

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

Being a leader within Dance Marathon challenged me more as an individual than any other experience, but has developed a confident, established leader. First, I was able to go from the ground up by moving from a general board member, to Vice President, and finally director. Having these experiences enabled me to understand the total innerworkings of an organization and how to establish roles so that each position is necessary and not meaningless. This board also helped me realize how I needed to grow as a leader. I am a neutral and steady leader and care dearly for those I work with. Rather quickly, I understood that I needed to separate my peer and professional self. Yes, it was hard at first to figure out this balance, but in the end, this skill was the key into creating an efficient and productive team. I struggled when I had to either raise my voice or sit-down to have a serious conversation with one of my board members. When I sat down with a board member, I always told myself this simple phrase: when you walk into the room, it is you Patrick Smith as Charleston Miracle Director not Patrick Smith their friend. Though it may seem silly, this truly helped me to separate myself from the situation and act on behalf of the betterment of the program. The last skill that I learned is that it takes innovation and dedication to grow a program. My advisor, Bret, told me that my biggest project as director is to leave one lasting piece within the organization. It was up to me to dig deep and to figure out what that piece was going to be. For me, I wanted to build up our community and create an event that would bring people together. That event for me was the 5k (FT5K) in the fall and 20k in a Day in the spring. It took me awhile to learn that each position, even the director, has an opportunity to grow and to bring something new to the organization. I needed the space to grow within these positions and the guidance from my advisors and peers to become the leader I am today. 

Charleston Miracle members accepting the Miracle Maker Award at DMLC 2018.

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

On my ride back from the Dance Marathon Leadership Conference, Gretchen Schultz, a fellow board member, and I were bouncing around ideas for our DM year to come. One project in particular came to my mind of what I felt like needed to come to campus. It all started with a student who I knew. His name was Alex Guerrero and his journey goes a little like this. For Alex, his life-mantra of always caring for others came to a halting stop in his senior year of high school when he learned of his diagnosis with osteosarcoma. Throughout the remainder of the year, Alex fought through chemotherapy and knee replacement so that he could attend the College of Charleston. Alex was in remission and on campus at the College for 11 months before his cancer returned. The osteosarcoma was stronger this time resulting in Alex having to amputate his right leg. Once again, though, he fought and became cancer free for the second time. Unfortunately, the cancer came back for one last time, and on February 16, 2018, Alex Guerrero passed away. Though this is a very shortened version of his story, I knew I couldn’t let his legacy be forgotten. Alex had determination and courage built-in to his heart and fought a fight no one else should ever go through. In his remembrance, I started planning an event in August called 20k in a Day, where our DM program would help bring awareness to his story and motivate our campus to help other kiddos at our local children’s hospital. After twenty-four hours (February 19th-20th), we gave out over 300 t-shirts, 14,000 people viewed a video sharing his story, and $20,000 were raised. Alex was a CofC student, he walked our streets, and now his legacy will be remembered. Losing Alex is a gentle reminder for me to continue the fight of battling childhood illness. This project was just a stepping stone of what I want to give to patients in need and the dedication I will put into learning my patient’s stories and making sure they feel individualized. The result of this event only grew the passion inside me to push harder to become a pediatric physician. 

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

Charleston Miracle, previously Dance Marathon at CofC, had a wonderful opportunity to help build the new Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital just five blocks from campus. We made a pact that if we raised $150,000 over a three-year period, we would be able to fund a new room in the hospital. After our third year in 2018, we had raised close to $200,000 in total. Being able to raise this money and to fund a room meant the world to me because it helped build one of the 80 patient family rooms in the hospital. Currently, our children’s hospital has one rotunda where families are squished into. The capacity is minimal and often times, families are placed on top of one another, leaving newborns and their mothers in stressful environments. These new family rooms match the type of personalized care I want to emphasize as a future physician. It is so important that families have the ultimate care during their time at the children’s hospital, and these family rooms give them the space to do so.

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

A college campus houses thousands of students and has the potential to make huge change. Specifically, most of our Miracle Network Dance Marathon programs make a difference in their local community. When a student goes to college, they don’t often get a chance to create a direct relationship with the community around them. Dance Marathon programs give students the opportunity to reach out to their local families in need. It gives them a chance to see a direct impact and to become an active citizen in the change of their community. These students will help leave a lasting legacy on the next generation that will eventually grow up to have the same opportunity as we have had. 


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.

Learn more about Miracle Network Dance Marathon:

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