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Illinois Wesleyan University 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: Florissant, Missouri

Degree(s): Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education

Dance Marathon Involvement: Over the course of my four years involved with TitanThon at Illinois Wesleyan University, I personally fundraised $3,907.50 for the Children’s Hospital of Illinois and served as the Catering Coordinator for one year and President for the past three years.

Campus/Community Involvement: Executive Board Member-InterVarsity Christian Fellowship; Resident Assistant; Educational Studies Ambassador; Program Director of Chapel of the Cross Summer Camp in St. Louis, Missouri; member of the Student Education Association; America Reads Tutor

Awards/Recognition: YICU Service Award Nominee; Kappa Delta Pi Education Honor Society; National Society of Leadership and Success; Dean’s List (Every Semester)

Post-Graduation Plans: Starting in the Fall, I will be a full-time elementary school teacher!

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

At the beginning of my sophomore year of college, the then-president approached me and told me that with the pressures of senior year weighing on her, she would not be able to continue as the program’s president. She said, “I don’t know who else to ask because it seems like you’re the only one on this campus that cares about it.” I didn’t know anything about Dance Marathon as a national organization, and I barely had had any experience leading a group of people and certainly had no idea what it took to put on a Dance Marathon event. However, I knew one thing for certain: If I had a blank slate, I was going to figure out everything about Dance Marathon—so I visited other events, sought out best practices, and worked to build a culture on Illinois Wesleyan’s campus that saw Dance Marathon as an important campus event.

I am proudest of the growth that this program has had in my time here. My first year as the Exec Director, we raised a little over $9,180.50. That next summer, I and three members of our team attended DMLC and we realized that if we wanted a revamped our program—changed our name to TitanThon, changed the time and duration of the event, and began to lead with our “why”. We also changed our executive board structure to utilize the people in our team more effectively. That next year, for TitanThon 2018, we raised $18,050.22 – near double what we had raised the previous year. During the 2018 year, we also increased our dancer attendance by 50%. For the first time, we had students that showed up to our event ready to make a change in children’s lives. During the 2018-2019 school year, we decided that we wanted to really focus our program’s energy on letting the campus get to know our Miracle Kids. We hosted our first “Miracle Kid” event—Cookies with Kaden—which was well attended by Illinois Wesleyan’s students. We focused on getting as many miracle families as possible to attend our event, and through diligent work and thoughtful cause connection, we continued our growth and raised $22,125.56 all for the Children’s Hospital of Illinois.

Emma agreed to have eggs, ice cream, sprinkles, and glitter poured on her as a fundraising incentive for participants.

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

I have learned so many leadership skills as TitanThon’s Executive Director that I have stopped keeping count. I have learned how to effectively assemble a group and inspire them to make change. I learned quickly the benefits of cause connection—and getting my team’s “why” established early on is what lead to most of the success of TitanThon. I also have learned conflict resolution skills. As a student leader, there is inevitably challenges regarding effort, timeliness, and persistence when it comes to special projects in DM, but effective and prompt conflict resolution will help to get the team back on track. I also learned how to delegate and promote working together—as I learned the hard way with my first event, Dance Marathons are not something that one person can put together. The year that we raised $18,050.22 was the first year that TitanThon had utilized the entire team’s skills. I also learned group management skills. As the director of a program, one must always be aware about what each person is working on and be ready to give support or encouragement when necessary. I also mastered my event planning skills—the ability to plan out how TitanThon would inform, motivate, and invite the campus to participate in TitanThon while simultaneously planning and executing the Big Event and many other smaller events proves to be challenging as there are many moving parts. Lastly, I have developed the skill of communicate my beliefs (my “why”) to complete strangers in a way that will make them want to get involved. This means not only being clear about what I believe in but also knowing that others may not share that belief, but through “the why” common ground can be met.

Why do you, personally, participate in Dance Marathon?

I participate in Dance Marathon because as a future educator, I have a large passion for helping kids become the best version of themselves in any and every way I can. I participate in Dance Marathon because I truly believe that every kiddo deserves to grow up and be whoever they want to be—and childhood illness should not stand in the way of that. There are so many joys of childhood—and no child should have to miss out on those. I believe that Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ mission to provide care to all children is the key to those important childhood memories that all kids deserve. I believe that each and every child has so much potential, and that we must protect that potential with everything we have because kids are our future.

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

Students should participate in Dance Marathon because every child needs a champion. Kiddos and their families need all of the support they can get—because it takes a village to raise a child. Especially when children are sick, it is especially important that college students—the world’s best and brightest—are at the forefront of change. College students are uniquely situated at institutions in which they have so many connections—this web of people helps to hold up our most vulnerable children and families.

Members of the TitanThon team at the 2018 Miracle Network Dance Marathon Leadership Conference.

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

At Illinois Wesleyan’s TitanThon, our money goes specifically to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The NICU at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois has a state-of-the-art congenital heart center in which they have the capability to 3-D print babies’ hearts so that the doctor can see exactly what is wrong with the babies’ heart before operating on it. I also know that in this NICU at CHOI, each baby (and family) gets their very own room—outfitted with everything that the baby needs to fight the long road ahead. These intimate environments allow the parents to process the emotions they are feeling without being on display. The NICU at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois strives to provide care for their youngest patients while helping parents through the emotions of having a sick child.

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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